Surprise Stadium – Texas Rangers Spring Training
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Home, Home on the Ranger
Surprise Stadium has been the Spring Training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals since 2003. In the summer, the Rookie League level AZL Rangers play in Surprise, and in the fall, the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros call the facility home. Surprise Stadium has a baseball capacity of 10,714. It also hosts several other events during the year, including college baseball tournaments in the weeks leading up to Spring Training.
The stadium is part of the Surprise Recreation Campus, which includes an additional 12 baseball fields, the Tennis and Racquet Complex, and the Surprise Aquatic Center. The city of Surprise is one of the newer communities in the Phoenix Metro area, and is one that is not easy to get to right now. However, this will change relatively soon with the ongoing construction of the brand new Loop 303 highway.
Food & Beverage 2
Nothing special as far as the food selection goes. There is a constant theme throughout the stadium. Each concession stand offers some sort of combo deal, where you can add a drink and either peanuts or fries to your order for $5. Surprise Stadium is a Coca-Cola stadium, as well as a primarily Budweiser beer vendor.
All the food is your typical ballpark food; all for the typical prices of $4-$10 depending on if you want a hot dog for $4, or a cheeseburger with all the fixings for $8.50. The service was not very good at any of the concession locations. One guy even told me the server said his beer was 16 ounces, when it was more like 10. So there’s definitely some value issues going on at Surprise.
In right field, there is the Home Run Party Deck, where all fans have the option of upgrading their ticket for $15 to get a free drink, a meal, and a seat, possibly under the tent. There is also a mini food court set up down the left field line which offers a lot of different options including BBQ, Mexican, ice cream, cotton candy. The Party Deck seems like a really good option for the fans with general admission lawn tickets that want to get out of the sun on a hot, Arizona afternoon. $15 is about what you’re going to be spending on food anyway. Why not add a table and chair too?
The right field line has a snow cone stand, as well as a burger stand.
You can bring food and water into the stadium, as long as the food is in a clear, Ziploc bag, and the water is sealed and smaller than a liter.
The stadium itself has a very nice, unique look to it. It has a southern and Midwestern flavor as far as the main architecture goes in the infield. The Rangers and Royals offices down the right and left field lines respectively also have that same design, with all of the offices facing in towards the stadium. In fact, most of the buildings on the Surprise Recreation Campus are all built the same way, which makes the area stand out.
The main entrance gates are all in the outfield, one on each foul line, and the main one along with the ticket office in dead center. Putting the main entrance in center field is interesting. They do this at Surprise because of the training facilities that bump up against the stadium. That’s definitely the most unique part of the Rangers and Royals facility.
The seats themselves are not too comfortable, but they do all have cup holders. There are several suites if that is the direction you’re looking to go. The Rangers dugout is down the first base line, with their bullpen just beyond the right field wall. The visiting team is on the third base line with their bullpen in left field. The handicapped general admission area is directly behind each bullpen, so there isn’t too much room for the general public to be able to stand or sit next to the bullpen if that’s what you prefer to do.
There are several team shops. The biggest one is a tent along the first base line, and there are other ones behind home plate, along the third base line, and in center field.
The scoreboard is out in left-center field, and it includes the basic baseball stats, plus a video board that has the name and picture of the current batter. The entire scoreboard was updated prior to 2014 Spring Training, and is much easier to read than the previous version. The LED banners on the facade of the stands down each baseline were updated as well, and make it very easy for those sitting on the outfield lawn to see the score and count.
The sound is okay for the most part, but when you get to the outfield, something weird happens. The sound coming from the speakers doesn’t line up perfectly around the park, so you get a bizarre, irritating delay coming from the infield. It’s really annoying.
The park faces to the northeast, so if you are going to a day game and want to sit in the shade, the third base line is for you. There is a lot of foul territory in Surprise, so fans are not right on top of the action as they are in some other places. Also, the lawn in center field is roped off from the rest of the area because of the batter’s eye.
Surprise has several promotions during each game. After the third inning is the T-shirt toss. If a player hits a home run in the bottom of the 6th, beer costs just $3 during the top of the 7th. And during the top of the 8th inning, the PA announcer announces a select food item that is discounted for the rest of the inning.
The Surprise Recreation Campus is sort of isolated from everything, so there really isn’t too much of a neighborhood to speak of. Just east of the stadium is the main park, where there is an aquatic complex, tennis courts, and a pretty big park area.
That’s really it though as far as things to do near the stadium, no restaurants or sports bars or shopping malls to speak of in the immediate area. A few miles east along Bell you will find all kinds of chain restaurants and fast food, but not very many unique dining options. Longhorn Steakhouse is a nice restaurant that is located on Bell just west of Litchfield.
There are two hotels on Bullard Ave. for fans to stay. The Residence Inn and Holiday Inn Express are both fairly close to the stadium.
With the addition of the Loop 303, it brings a couple of things into play that weren’t easy to get to before. Wildlife World Zoo is now about ten minutes away since the new highway goes right next to it. Nothing else entertainment-wise is there as of 2014, but there is a lot of new area for the Northwest Valley to develop now.
Surprise is a weird place to put a Spring Training stadium for several reasons, but not the least of which is the demographics of Surprise and the towns around it. Surprise, Sun City, and Sun City West are mainly retirement communities. These people know a lot about baseball, but aren’t the most vocal about it. It’s a very dead atmosphere for the most part. Ranger fans were not very vocal when I went to visit. The Royals fans were way more into the game.
Surprise Stadium is probably the most difficult stadium to get to in the Cactus League. It isn’t near any highways yet, and the road that does lead out to it runs next to a train track the entire way. The easiest way to get there from the rest of the Phoenix Metro area is to exit the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy at Bell Rd and go west a long way. On Bell, you’ll drive through Peoria, Sun City, Surprise, Sun City West, and then be back in Surprise again. You’ll want to turn south off of Bell at Bullard Ave., which runs right next to the stadium and feeds to all the parking lots.
Even though the 303 is not completed, you can still access it from I-10 at the Sarival exit. The part of the highway near the stadium is done, but the rest of it is not, but it’s still easier than the other options for those coming from the south or west valley. If you take the 303, you’ll want to use the Greenway exit to get to the stadium.
Once at the stadium, parking is easy. There is tons of parking all around the park on the outfield side, with all the practice fields taking up the area behind home plate. Parking is free, but be sure to park in a lot on the correct side of the stadium. Don’t park out by left field when you’re sitting on the first base line. It’s also easier to get out of the stadium if you park in the lots closer to the intersection of Bullard and Tierra Buena in the southeast corner of the stadium. Also keep in mind that the only ticket office is located in center field (the northeast corner of the complex).
There’s one main concourse that goes all the way around the stadium. It can get a little bit jammed up behind home plate with all the concession stands and restrooms all being in that area. You can watch the game from anywhere on the concourse though as it is completely open.
Return on Investment 2
Rangers tickets cost anywhere from $8-$28 for a single game. Honestly, if I was a Rangers or Royals fan coming out to Arizona for Spring Training, I would not bother driving out to Surprise and just see them somewhere else. There isn’t a lot of food selection, the tickets are expensive, and the stadium is just not close to the rest of Phoenix. At least parking is free though.
The Rangers’ batting cages are set up right next to the concourse along the first base line. So if you get to the game early enough, you can hang out near the batting cages and watch the players take some BP before the game.
If you get to the area early enough, you can walk around the practice fields and watch the Rangers warmup before a game. I like that part of Spring Training a lot. It’s just something that you can’t do during the regular season, and it gives you an extra chance to get autographs if you don’t get one before the game. The Rangers sign autographs before the game along the first base line for a little while.
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Wildlife World Zoo
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