Tempe Diablo Stadium – Los Angeles Angels Spring Training
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Angels in the Devil’s Temple
eattle Pilots’ one-year stint in Major League Baseball, serving as their Spring Training home in the park’s opening year of 1969. The Pilots became the Brewers, staying in Tempe Diablo until the Mariners moved in during 1977 and remained for over fifteen years. Then the Angels came to stay back in 1993, eventually renaming the facility to Gene Autry Field at Tempe Diablo Stadium after the Angels long-time owner passed away.
As with many Spring Training venues, the 9,558-seat stadium houses both the main facility as well as an extensive minor league complex and also serves as home to the Arizona League Tempe Angels during their regular season. While old by even major league standards (it would be the fifth oldest stadium in MLB), Tempe Diablo Stadium underwent an extensive, $20-million renovation in 2006.
Tempe Diablo has some limitations from its age that it doesn’t quite fully overcome, but it has great fans in a great part of the larger Phoenix area.
Food & Beverage 3
As an older park, Tempe Diablo has somewhat limited space for concessions, and it succeeds a lot better with its drink selection than its food options.
The tiny regular concession stands generally offer up one ballpark standard item and drinks, such as hot dogs ($6), cheeseburgers ($8), chicken tenders ($10), brats ($8), and Polish sausages ($5). Grub variety comes in a somewhat wider selection in the right field covered picnic area, and the extensive food tents out in the picnic area at the top of the berm in left, delivering Dos Gringos ($6 and up for excellent tacos), the Coop ($10 for chicken tenders and wings), and Smokin Hot BBQ ($12 for your choice of meats in a trio of BBQ sliders).
While the food selection may be a little limited, there are a number of places to get your drink on and fend off the afternoon heat. The regular concessions serve up a modest on-tap selection of $4/small $8/large for domestic drafts (Bud/Coors/Shocktop), but the specialty beer concessions along third base (Tempe Tap Room, Four Peaks Craft Beer, as well as smaller stands all along the promenade) open up your selections, to $11 premium drafts and domestic bombers, $12 for premium bombers, $9 for domestic 16 ouncers, $10 for premium 16s, and $7 for wine. Choices range from Corona, Four Peaks, Pacifico Clara, Michelob, Dos Equis, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Crispen Cider, Goose Island, Kilt Lifter, Hop Knot, Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada, and Firestone Walker 405. Non-alcoholic drinks are from the Pepsi empire, with $4 for a small soda, and $6 for a souvenir size cup.
The Polish sausage is surprisingly good for the cheapest item at the park, but splurge for BBQ sliders at Smokin Hot BBQ ($12). Choose quality or quantity for drinks. Either stock up on a bunch of large domestic drafts ($8) at the regular concession booths, or grab a Kilt Lifter or your choice of premium drafts ($11).
Tempe Diablo is an older Spring Training park that has undergone numerous renovations to keep it up to modern standards, but even fans of older parks may think they are still one or two updates away from finished.
The main promenade walkway wraps around the park, from shallow right field, around home plate, and out into the left field corner. All the seating areas are a stairway down from the main walkway. Bleachers populate the right and left field seats, and deep left field offers an extensive picnic berm. The main scoreboard takes up right field, and one of the area’s buttes rises up majestically behind left. But there is nearly no escape from the sun, which burns particularly bright in this area of Arizona. Besides the group pavilion, there is no place that will keep you in the shade for the entire game.
Serving their Spring Training audience, the practice fields are right next to the park, by the home plate parking lot. It is a little bit of a walk, but helpful staff will get you to your destination.
Autograph seekers can also wait in a special area right by the practice field path entrance to snag players as they enter the main stadium.
Between-inning entertainment is kept to a minimum. Beside one or two minor league level contests, all the entertainment is between the baselines.
If you’re trying to grab any sort of shade, get something in the last rows of the home first base side. Otherwise, go to a night game to avoid the sun. The cozy confines of the park make most seats great, so a lawn seat can be a perfectly acceptable (and cheap) afternoon of baseball.
Tempe is a city of over 150,000 to the southeast of Phoenix, housing the Arizona State University campus and some of the most densely-populated areas of Arizona. The good news is there is a decent amount to see and do.
As a university town and population center, there are plenty of good eats in Tempe. Chain restaurants and dive and chain bars are easy to find everywhere, especially at the Arizona Mills mall to the south of the park and near the airport to the north, but there’s more than that to chow on.
The Top of the Rock restaurant in the Marriott near the park is well-regarded and close for eats. If you travel closer to downtown, you can try the best of the selections near the ASU campus. Four Peaks Restaurant (and brewery, east of the campus on 8th) is the local must-visit. Magic-themed House of Tricks (by City Hall on campus) is another quirky rave, and if you’re looking for something else a little different, try the Cornish Pasty Co (west of campus on West 7th). There are too many options to list, but a walk through the Mill Avenue District (by City Hall) will yield dozens of other choices for any taste.
Tempe has a decent selection of things to do. When in season, college sports at Arizona State are a major attraction in the north of downtown and to the east of Tempe Diablo stadium. If you’re not interested in the Sun Devils athletics, the commercial-minded can hit the sprawling Arizona Mills mall to the south of the ballpark, or the hipper Mill Avenue District downtown to the east (also a great place to check out the fertile local music scene).
The more intellectually oriented will probably appreciate the SEA Life Aquarium, the Tempe Historical Museum, Tempe Center for the Arts, or the ASU Art Museum. People with kids will appreciate the Big Surf Waterpark, the Splash Playground, the Halle Heart Children’s Museum, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, or the scenic Hayden Butte Preserve. Also, all of the other Cactus League parks are within forty minutes from Tempe Diablo.
Tempe is a university town right by a major airport, so the good news is that there are a ton of hotels to choose from, starting with the Phoenix Marriott Tempe literally across the street from the park. A further clutch of a half-dozen or so hotels are in the area immediately near the stadium, ranging from Motel 6, Red Roof, and Comfort Suites to DoubleTree, Sheraton, Country Inn, and Homewood Suites. A couple of miles to the north are over a dozen hotels adjacent to the airport, another dozen are a short drive to the east downtown near the Arizona State University campus, and the mega Arizona Mills mall a short distance to the south has yet another half dozen or so choices. Pick your price range and get a room, or splurge for the Marriott for the shortest commute and no parking hassles.
The Angels are solidly in the upper-middle of the road for Cactus League attendance. On average, they’ve been filling up about 7,500 seats of their spacious complex, which isn’t bad at all, and that looks to increase with the continuing success of the team during the regular season.
The day game I attended was packed near to capacity, with very little help from visiting fans. Even on a particularly hot afternoon, the crowd came early and stayed for the entire contest.
With the intimate confines of the park, the crowd noise is personal and loud. The relatively close-to-home Angels fans make the trip out and are actively involved in the Cactus League games and aren’t just there for autographs, especially given the dearth of between-inning entertainment.
Tempe Diablo is located on the west end of the southeast Phoenix suburb, with easy access right off I-10.
Phoenix has a comprehensive set of Valley Metro buses (no doubt so no one has to walk in that heat), as well as a small Valley Metro Rail service. The light rail doesn’t go near the park, but bus lines 52 and 48 ($2/ride, $4/day pass) stop right by the park. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is just ten minutes to the north of the stadium, and several other regional airports circle the greater Phoenix area. Greyhound has a terminal right next to the airport, and there is an Amtrak stop in Maricopa to the southeast.
Two main parking lots are on either end the park, all costing $5. For a well-attended game, one or both of these lots (especially the main lot by the entrance) may fill up, so get there early to avoid driving around to find an open lot. If both lots fill, attendants will direct you to less-convenient overflow parking. Do not park at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe. They vigorously patrol their lot, and you will get towed unless you are a guest of the hotel. There can be some traffic on the way out right after the game to get back to I-10, but it is generally only really bad from the overflow lots.
A grand stairway leads up the main entrance of the park by home plate, but two satellite entrances (by the parking lot in left field and on the landing at the top of the stairs near first base) are the way to go for quickest entry.
Moving around the park is a little more difficult than it should be. In a renovated older park, crowd control can be a bit of an issue, and it is surely the case at Tempe Diablo. There is no walking path all around the park, so you get a certain amount of congestion in the outfield where the walkways end. The main promenade at the top of the seating bowl can also be quite a traffic jam. As the promenade is the only source of shade in the park, many people retreat there to stand, especially during day games. To their credit, the stadium has implemented a well-policed “standing line” to keep standees at the back of walkway to prevent bottlenecks in the walkway, but even with this precaution, traffic regularly comes to a standstill. Additionally, the promenade in left field is roped off for a time before the game to allow players to get into the park from the outside practice fields.
Return on Investment 3
Tempe Diablo may be an older ballpark, but the prices it charges for most things are quite contemporary.
There is not a seat to be had for under $15. Tickets range from lawn and outfield seats (starting at $15 and $20, respectively), to infield baseline seats (starting at $25), to seats behind the dugout and the plate (starting at $40). The very first rows of seats behind the plate go for “premium” MVP prices (starting at $50). As with many MLB teams, the Angels site offers spring training packages including hotels, rental cars, special meet-and-greets, tickets, and merchandise, starting at $620 per person.
Parking is a league-average $5, and the for-charity program costs $3, but the food is a little on the high side, with most food items averaging $8, and alcohol prices nearly all over $10.
Tempe Diablo has a number of little extras, but it is really helped by its excellent staff. On the main promenade is a part of the Cactus League Experience exhibit that is completed at select other parks and the Mesa Historical Museum. The Angels championship banners are on the wall of the press box behind home plate, and a number of little touches, such as baseballs topping the entrances, help add to the overall experience. Merchandise stands are outside the park, and are wedged into every sizeable area on the main park promenade, as a giant main team store is precluded by the limited space.
But in particular, the staff at Tempe Diablo really stand out from the Cactus League pack in a lot of small ways. Across the board, they are friendly and helpful. Out at the practice fields, they are quick to point you in the right direction, hand you a full Spring Training roster (including minor league players), and explain who is training where at what, when you’re lucky to get begrudged directions at most other facilities. The staff at the entrance gates go out their way to make the wait more bearable, and do as much pre-checking as they can to get the crowd in as quickly as possible. And the staff inside does its job well, such as politely but firmly policing the cramped walkways to keep the crowds moving.
Although a little on the pricey side (especially for families) and some issues due to its elder status, Tempe Diablo Stadium is still a good place to catch a game and have something to do afterwards.
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