Sacco: The importance of spring training tourism in Scottsdale

The bases are loaded. And fortunately, our hotels, restaurants and attractions are too.

Cactus League Spring Training has returned for its 70th season in Arizona and its 61st in Scottsdale. Through April 1, 15 Major League Baseball teams will play games day in and day out at 10 ballparks located throughout the Valley of the Sun.

Rachel Sacco

Fans of the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and more will follow their teams to the Valley. During the games, the crowds will fill the stands to soak up the sun, snack on some hotdogs, and watch their teams compete.

But after the MLB players leave the field, it’s the fans’ turn to play. Outside the ballpark, fans will spend their dollars on accommodations, shopping, dining, and more. That’s why Cactus League Spring Training leaves behind an annual economic impact of $544 million for the Valley.

Spring training has been a Scottsdale tradition since 1956, and in the intervening decades, the city has been the spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.

Today, of course, Scottsdale is home to the San Francisco Giants. According to the city of Scottsdale, 68 percent of San Francisco Giants home game attendees are from out of the area. Giants fans, both local and out-of-state, have an economic impact of $28 million in Scottsdale.

That impact doesn’t factor in money spent within Scottsdale’s borders by other baseball travelers, like those rooting for the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks, both of which spend the spring at the neighboring Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Last year, 334,142 fans flocked to Salt River Fields for 33 games, and 177,699 fans attended 16 games at Scottsdale Stadium. Those hundreds of thousands of fans mean heads in beds at Scottsdale-area hotels and resorts. Scottsdale experienced an outstanding 89 percent occupancy last March, and, in total, bed-tax collections topped a year high of $2.9 million.

That revenue was distributed to the city’s general fund for resident services, invested into Experience Scottsdale for tourism promotion, and allocated for tourism-related capital projects, research, and special event support.

Each year, Experience Scottsdale promotes Cactus League Spring Training via marketing, public relations efforts and our website. Leading up to this season, Experience Scottsdale targeted San Francisco and Denver, two of our top visitor markets, with high-impact advertising campaigns encouraging travel to Scottsdale.

San Francisco Giants fans spotted invitations to Scottsdale on television and in Montgomery Tunnel, which was wrapped floor-to-ceiling with Scottsdale imagery. Similarly, Colorado Rockies fans were welcomed to Scottsdale with ads on the Denver Light Rail and a wallscape in downtown Denver.

By hosting and promoting special events like Cactus League Spring Training, Scottsdale captures the interest of potential visitors around the country. While visitors may come to Scottsdale to catch a few baseball games, their impact is felt across the hospitality industry and throughout the city.

Editor’s note: Rachel Sacco is the president and CEO of Experience Scottsdale, which is responsible for marketing the Scottsdale area as a premier travel and meetings destination to national and international leisure visitors, travel agents, tour operators and meeting planners.

Experience Scottsdale advertising in Montgomery Tunnel. (photo by Experience Scottsdale)

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