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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Arizona Heat
by Pascal Marco

Thriller in Glendale?

by Pascal Marco

It’s not often when you can say how excited you are about someone moving in to your neighborhood and taking up an entire block, or in this case, quite a few acres. However, the City of Glendale, Arizona is brimming with joy over the news.

“We’re thrilled to have the World Champion White Sox coming to our city,” declared Julie Frisoni, Director of Marketing and Communications when I interviewed her recently. “Glendale,” she says, “is becoming known throughout the land as a sports mecca.”

The White Sox are the most recent Cactus League team to have won a World Series so it’s befitting that as champions they are getting their own Taj Mahal in the form of an $80 million, ultramodern sports complex they will share with the Los Angeles Dodgers, possibly as early as next year. Although the completion, as well, of the 13,000-capacity stadium is still one year away, Glendale is budgeting for the arrival of the two teams and their passionate fans right now. And even though Jerry Reinsdorf and the Sox aren’t officially out (yet) of their contract with Pima County, Arizona, the entity they have their lease with in Tucson, the Sox arrival in the Phoenix area is imminent.



Future spring training home of the Chicago White Sox!

The Cactus League, started by none other than Bill Veeck and others, has a huge advantage over its rival, Florida’s Grapefruit League. Except for the White Sox, Rockies, and D’backs, whose home fields are almost 120 miles away in Tucson, the majority of the Cactus teams are within 30 minutes travel time of each other, some even less. Long travel times between venues have been the bane of players and fans in Florida forever, and the Cactus League has suffered with similar complaints revolving around travel time for the three teams down in Tucson.

Our Sox have become the darlings of the Cactus League, having the distinction of being the last team from the desert league to win the World Series. Before them, it was Anaheim in 2002 and before that it was the state’s very own Diamondbacks in 2001. To find another Cactus League team who won the Fall Classic, one would have to look all the way back to the ’89 Athletics.

The Sox have become a huge spring training draw, selling out most games they play up in the Phoenix area, where the highest concentration of Cactus League’s current 12 teams are. With the arrival of the Dodgers and the return of the Cleveland Indians in 2009, and the possible addition of the Cincinnati Red Legs to the Cactus League, as well, the once fledgling league will bulge to possibly 15 teams, putting it finally on equal ground with the elder Grapefruit League.

Glendale, Arizona, has no major league teams currently training within its friendly confines. “Why Glendale” I ask Julie. “Why do you think the White Sox chose this location over many others available in the Phoenix area?”

“Well, don’t forget you just asked the marketing person, ‘Why Glendale?’ I could go on and on as to why,” she proudly answers.

When I ask if she could possibly keep it to a few short sentences, Julie acquiesces and replies, “Glendale, in the last five to six years, has done what no other city in the entire country has done. It has created a sports and entertainment district really like no other [and turned it] into an area that has generated close to a billion dollars in revenue in the last couple of years alone. When you think of all we have going for us, all we have to offer the White Sox fan, ‘why not Glendale?’ should really be the question.”

And Ms. Frisoni’s right. Glendale can proudly brag of the following--it’s home to the NFL’s Cardinals (who’s home stadium was once the venerable old Comiskey Park) who play in the new, magnificent University of Phoenix Stadium; home to the Phoenix Coyotes (just one of Jeremy Roenick’s other teams) and its home ice in The Jobing.com Arena; host of this year’s terrific Super Bowl this past February; host to the annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the previous year’s BCS Championship Bowl Game, both played in the above mentioned University of Phoenix Stadium; and, of course, don’t forget it’s also the home of the current American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks.

And, once they leave Tucson, what will White Sox fans get when they start visiting this jewel in the desert city in the spring of 2009, located smack dab in the (at one time, far) northwest side of what’s known to locals as “The Valley of the Sun?”

Just ask Frisoni, a walking, talking ad for the City of Glendale. “We’re not better than Tucson, just different,” she graciously replies. “Once [Sox fans] get out to our sports and entertainment district they’ll see probably one of the hottest pieces of property in the entire southwest, maybe in the entire country.”

And she’s not kidding. The new White Sox/Dodgers spring training venue is just a short, two miles from the core of a hub called Westgate City Center. The city’s web site calls it “the most exciting urban, mixed use vision of the new century.” Frisoli glowingly adds, “It centers around what we call Main Street. It’s like a mini-Times Square of the desert.”

Whatever you call it, it’s something Sox fans will surely embrace, and Sox ownership will surely relish, considering all the grief the latter gets when it comes to a night life/club life being non-existent for Sox fans during the regular season near U.S Cellular. Imagine being able to enjoy a drink and dinner after a spring training game in the nearby Bar Louie, then taking in a late movie at one of the AMC Theatres 20 screens with stadium style seating for 4,000 people--and all within walking distance from the future ballpark, or at the very least a short bicycle-cab ride.

On the other hand, perhaps shopping is your opiate.

“Sunset Magazine voted us recently as being one of the ten best places to shop in the country,” Frisoli proudly chirps. “We [Glendale] are an incredibly vibrant and hip place to be. And now we have an existing four-star resort.”

Julie is talking about the brand-new Renaissance Resort and Spa, a twelve-story hotel that rises like a monolith among the working farm fields that still dot the once vibrant cotton-growing area. Glendale’s first hotel to attain this rating, the 320-room structure now competes with even the trendiest Scottsdale resorts. Currently, the area has about 900 rooms within walking distance of the Westgate/Main Street core.

When I shared with Frisoni the fear (loathing may be a more appropriate word) White Sox fans might have regarding heavy traffic congestion around such a rapidly growing venue, she quickly assures me that die-hard White Sox fans shouldn’t be concerned about that.

“When these facilities were first being built there was a perception that we were out in the middle of nowhere, and initially we were . . . but all the amenities are here [now] with a good transportation system that gets you in and out very quickly.”

She’s right there. Post-event interviews after the Super Bowl just held there recently reported high-marks from game attendees that parking was more than ample and congestion was relatively mild, considering an event of that size.

I asked Julie to tell me if there are any plans being developed specifically to target their future promotions directly toward White Sox fans.

“We’re already talking about that now, literally, as you and I speak. Everything we’ve done here in Glendale has been extremely fan-friendly. We consider ourselves a partner to whatever team comes to our community, so, we’re talking about doing some fan trips out to our market, to get the word out about what there is to do here and see in Glendale. The first part will be an outreach to the White Sox fans to let them know who we are and what we’re about. And then the second part is to make sure that once they get here they have an experience like no other.”

“An experience like no there,” she says? That may be true, Julie, but, in Sox fans’ minds there isn’t any “experience like no other” other than winning another world championship. How about it, Sox?

Go Sox!

For more information about Glendale and the new White Sox Spring Training Facility, go to these web sites:

www.visitglendale.com

www.glendaleaz.com

www.glendalegotgame.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pascal Marco is a free-lance writer who splits his time between Scottsdale, Arizona (where he formed the Arizona Sox Posse in 2005) and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, he has been a Sox fan since the unforgettable Go-Go White Sox days and has contributed to White Sox fan web sites such as www.whitesoxinteractive.com. He can be reached at reply85254@aol.com.

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