Reds-Indians spring facility progressing
Shared project ready for Cleveland in 2009, Cincy in '10
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One tumbleweed could be the spot where Jay Bruce takes batting practice. Another might be where Edinson Volquez warms up on a practice mound.
The Reds' portion of the new Spring Training complex to be built in Goodyear, Ariz., remains limited to the drawing board for now. It's just a desert patch located adjacent to the nearly completed site of their co-tenants, the Indians. Much of Goodyear, in fact, is still in the development stage.
The sprawl of the Phoenix metro area has started its expansion into Goodyear, about 20 miles west of the city center. Just off Interstate 10, there is your typical suburban commerce -- fast-food restaurants, shopping centers and gas stations. Signs for home builders are everywhere, and construction can be spotted in all directions.
Go about two miles south and the seeds of a Major League facility are sprouting on some flat desert between the Estrella and White Tank mountains. The only other major site nearby is a cargo airport with dozens and dozens of parked jumbo jets sitting right next door.
"You're not in the boondocks, but you need to have some vision of what it's going to look like down the road," said Dick Williams, the Reds director of baseball business operations. "Right now, our immediate surroundings are pretty bare."
The ballpark is just one quadrant of where progress is planned. Goodyear is expected to soon break ground on a new city hall, library and two college campuses in spots near the stadium.
As the Reds completed their agreement this spring to move to Goodyear, the Indians' part of the project was well underway. Construction of Cleveland's practice fields and a 43,000 square foot building that houses the clubhouse, weight room, press room, therapy rooms, conference rooms and offices was about finished on Friday. The batting cages and pitching mounds are ready for players now.
The Indians were moving in furniture, unpacking equipment and preparing to host players for fall instructional league baseball. The building has the look of Arizona architecture -- with metal material made to look rustic, synthetic woods that are environmentally "green" to help buildings breathe and exposed concrete.
After they break ground later this fall, the Reds will eventually have a similar-sized facility with similar accoutrements. They are watching the Indians closely to learn from their experience. They've already deviated from the Indians' blueprints in some places -- whether it's the weight room, adding an extra observation tower or the layout of the fields.
According to the Reds' blueprint, there will be a cloverleaf of four Minor League fields with an observation tower in the middle. There will be two more full fields for big leaguers and two half-fields and a field just for agility drills. Many of the Indians and Reds' fields will be open to use for residents when camp isn't in session.
During workouts, much of the Reds' area will be set up so fans can watch the players.
"Fans will have more access than they've ever had," Williams said during a tour Friday. "Our building materials will look like the Indians'. We borrowed a lot of their ideas for how they're building it and how they laid their site out. At the same time, we were able to learn from them and do a lot of improvements."
About a half-mile from both the Reds and Indians' site is the 10,000-seat main stadium still under construction. The distance from the main clubhouses is a little far to walk but not far enough for a car or bus ride. Williams said the city was responsible for figuring out a shuttle system that will move players and staff back and forth.
"The good thing is we'll get to see the Indians mess around with that for a year," Williams said.
The concrete seating bowl, which still lacks seats, was dug out and built entirely below ground level. When fans walk into the ballpark, they will be at the top of the concourse.
"They didn't want it to feel like this was a big stadium you go into," Williams said. They wanted people to stop in. It'll be open 24-7. The idea was to build as little up as you could so it's most accessible."
The main entrance will greet fans with a courtyard and sculptures -- still in the works. Above the concourse is a second level that will have the luxury suites, press box and a party deck. Completion is still about two or three months away.
The Indians will begin Spring Training this February, while the Reds are still over a year and a half away from moving in. Cincinnati will have its final Spring Training at Sarasota, Fla., in 2009. Many fans have bemoaned the Reds' relocation out of Florida. In Arizona, the weather is expected to be better, and the close proximity of the other Cactus League teams will significantly cut down on bus trips that often chew up 2-4 hours in Florida.
"The most important thing is that we don't have a lot of rain out here," Williams said. "We have favorable baseball weather. For playing games, the reduction in the commute time will be invaluable."
Once Cactus League games start, there will likely be games played at the new stadium daily. The Indians will always have the first-base dugout and the Reds will permanently get the third-base dugout.
"That way we'll get the friendly rivalry going a little bit," Williams said. "We'll get the fans into the idea there are two sides to the stadium. They [city officials] were pleasantly open to our input with the caveat where we didn't ask to redo the stadium. But they were like, 'You're going to be here for 30 years, too. If you have good ideas, let us hear them.' I feel like we had some input. Fortunately, they were already headed in the direction we agreed with."