Sports

Cactus League contends shortened season a success

Posted 4/6/22

A Cactus League official deemed the 2022 season a success despite quick turnarounds and lower fan attendance than in previous years where stadiums saw thousands more each game.

This year, fan …

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Sports

Cactus League contends shortened season a success

Posted

A Cactus League official deemed the 2022 season a success despite quick turnarounds and lower fan attendance than in previous years where stadiums saw thousands more each game.

This year, fan attendance averaged about 5,587 per game despite having the Cactus League season delayed because of a lockout between Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association. The two parties reached an agreement the second week of March. Games started on March 17 this season.

Originally, Cactus League games were scheduled to start Saturday, Feb. 26. Instead, games were played from Thursday, March 17, through Tuesday, April 5.

“I think it’s a success when you look at it from the perspective that facilities had to turnaround on a short timeline,” said Andrew Bagnato, spokesman for the Cactus League. “But it wasn’t the season anyone expected — that’s for sure.”

The 2022 attendance was down by an average of 2,313 fans per game from the average 7,900 fan base coming out to each game during the last normal season of 2019, Bagnato said.

The 2020 season was canceled midway through because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, Cactus League stadiums were at 25% capacity due to COVID protocols, he said.

The 2022 season marks the third year in a row where the Cactus League has had dealt with some sort of unexpected issue.

“(Cactus League staff and workers at all the facilities) have shown a lot of professionalism in the face of all of this,” Bagnato said. “This is the third year in a row where we were impacted by circumstances out of our control.”

Some city officials have been concerned regarding the shortened season.

Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps has said the late start hindered the local hospitality industry and the negative impact was in the millions of dollars.

Glendale partners with Phoenix on Camelback Ranch, spring home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. Glendale runs the facility that resides in Phoenix.

Phelps said it was a disappointment that there were less games and less attendance. 

"Obviously, we were pleased with some assemblance of a spring training as opposed to none," Phelps said. 

Phelps has said a shortened season means less hotel and sales taxes that gets collected by the city. In December, he said many out-of-state families were wanting to plan trips to Arizona but were unsure if there will be a spring training.

But Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, has said “anecdotely” travelers kept their plans and traveled to Arizona despite the uncertainty behind this year’s baseball games.

The state’s tourism apparatus was busy still trying to lure in visitors from cold weather cities that are represented in the Cactus League. Residents in colder cities such as Chicago and Cleveland are sent Arizona content via digital ads that promote tourism from wine festivals to art fairs, said Joshua Coddington, public information officer at the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The state tourism office wants to make Arizona “a top-of-mind vacation destination” for travelers of all sorts, Coddington said.

“People are eager to travel, especially for leisure travel,” he said.

The Phoenix area has 10 facilities hosting 15 MLB teams and “holds claim to the greatest concentration of professional baseball facilities found anywhere in the United States,” according to the Cactus League.

Each year, baseball fans travel to the Valley and stay at local hotels, eat at restaurants and funnel millions of dollars into local economies.

In 2018, a typical Cactus League year, the season generated $644.2 million into the state’s economy.

Cactus League officials expect next year’s spring training season to lean toward a more normal year for baseball.

“That’s what a lot of folks are looking forward to — a sense of normalcy,” Bagnato said.

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