Ah, I've arrived in "Phoenix" for my first experience exploring this magical time of year called "Spring Training". My first stop is in Peoria where I quickly learned that while the Cactus League is based in the "greater Phoenix area", each town is different and has different things to offer. On this trip, we decided to try two different ways to experience Spring Training, so we started in Peoria Arizona - home to the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners.
Peoria Arizona is located in the north west side of greater Phoenix along Rt 101 between Surprise and Glendale.
While it plays host to the Padres and Mariners, it is also a short drive to Surprise Stadium - home of the Royals and Rangers, Camelback Ranch - home of the, Dodgers and Angels, and Maryvale Baseball Park, home of the Brewers.
Our home base for this leg of the trip was the Peoria Comfort Suites. It has a fantastic location, right off the highway and a short walk from the stadium and very close to a variety of restaurants including an IHOP.
While there is virtually no such thing as a "cheap hotel" during spring training, the Comfort Suites rack rate for this weekend was $199 / night, so for a suite consisting of a king or two queen beds and a sofa bed, that is fairly affordable if you are looking to pack the room with you and a few other guys. The room also features a fridge and microwave as well as free Internet and a basic breakfast in the morning so it really is a great home base for your spring training guys weekend.
To hammer this point home, we actually met a group of guys in the parking lot who had been coming to spring training in Phoenix for 30 years! While they haven't been staying at the same place all this time they had some great stories to share about how easy it was to meet current, hopeful, and past players and personalities. This included even having drinks one time with Chicago's own Harry Carey!
While things have changed over the years, this spirit of openness still exists here during Spring Training and you never know who you'll meet or what stories you'll be able to bring home.
When most people think of Cactus League Spring Training they probably think of the more popular areas such as Scottsdale, Mesa, and "Phoenix" itself. What we learned though after driving around is that while it's all metropolitan Phoenix, each area has a pretty distinctive flair to it. Peoria is less developed and so it is also less expensive, but it is still pretty well situated depending on what games you will be attending.
While the area around the stadium already features several hotels, bars, restaurants etc. they are actively developing the area around the stadium to make it an even bigger and better attraction in the next few years.
Right next door to the hotel is the Peoria Sports Complex which is home to the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. Opened in 1994, the stadium seats 11,000 and has separate club houses for the two teams.
On the Thursday that we attended our first game (Padres v Rangers) it was not a packed house at all so there was lots of opportunity to walk around and check out different seats.