Reno touts itself as the “Biggest Little City in the World,” but Glendale, Arizona is rapidly laying claim to the title of the world’s “Biggest Little Sports City.” Evidence to support that claim seems to be growing daily. Consider that Glendale: (1) already is home to the NFL Arizona Cardinals, the NHL Phoenix Coyotes, and the annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl; (2) will host the 2008 Super Bowl in a new $455 million stadium recently voted “Best NFL Facility”;(3) has contracted with NCAA Football to host the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) every fourth year; and (4) recently lured the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox to what will be Major League Baseball’s newest and most advanced Spring Training complex.

Not bad for a town that not so long ago was considered a sleepy Phoenix suburb. According to most recent U.S. Census figures, the population of Glendale is approaching 240,000, with estimated annual growth of almost ten percent. Some of that certainly is being fueled by the city’s startling successes in the business of sports.

For the skinny on the Super Bowl, check out the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee’s new web site, especially the FAQ link, which offers a wealth of demographic information that would make any chamber of commerce proud. Glendale claims the new stadium “features the most modern technology, fan-friendly amenities and a secure environment.”

It also is “the first stadium in North America to feature a retractable roof and a roll-out grass field.” The roof has two large retractable panels that uncover the entire playing field “while providing maximum shading for fans.” The roof can be closed and the facility air conditioned in the hot months, while the roof can be opened to take advantage of cooler (i.e., 50 to 80-degree) weather in winter.

According to the host committee, the grass field rolls out of the stadium on a 12-million pound tray, residing outside of the stadium except for football and soccer events. With the field in the outboard position, the 158,000 square-foot floor is unencumbered by the turf and features a built-in utility grid.

The grass field remains outside the stadium in the sun until game day, which allows for the maximum amount of sunshine and nourishment, eliminating humidity problems inside the stadium and providing unrestricted access to the stadium floor for events and staging.

Some other salient details:

  • There are 63,000 permanent seats with capability to expand to 73,000.
  • Stadium architect Peter Eisenman’s design was inspired by a barrel cactus.
  • The stadium will occupy more than 25 acres, and the field will support approximately 94,000 square feet (over 2 acres) of natural grass.

Completed in the fall of 2006 and built specifically to showcase Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008, this architectural marvel was voted “Best NFL Facility” by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily. The stadium has also been named one of the Top 10 stadiums in the world by Business Week.

Receiving less publicity but perhaps even more remarkable – at least to longtime Los Angeles Dodger fans – was the deal that Glendale and the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority (AzTA) struck with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to move Spring Training from Vero Beach, Florida, and to share a new training complex in Glendale with the Chicago White Sox.

The Dodgers have trained in Vero Beach for almost 60 years, since before the 1948 season, and “Dodgertown” is such an institution there that the streets are named after legendary Dodgers including Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, and Sandy Koufax.

Geography certainly played a role. Dodgertown was founded when the team was still in Brooklyn, ten years before then-owner Walter O’Malley moved his team to Los Angeles. Vero Beach is 2,608 miles from L.A. Glendale is 372 miles away – a 5? hour drive or short flight to Phoenix for fans who want to see their team play Cactus League games in March before the regular season begins in April.

The baseball complex will cost AzTA and the city an estimated $76.8 million to design and build, and it will be no less “state of the art” than the football stadium. According to a news release Glendale issued on the day of the announcement in November, a private developer will create more than one million square feet of commercial, office, restaurant, retail and mixed-use development, including not only the two-team training facility but also a four-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course. The complex, which reaches across Glendale and Phoenix city borders, will feature:

  • a 12,000-seat stadium, with 3,000 lawn seats
  • two major league practice fields per team
  • four minor league practice fields per team
  • 42,000 square-foot team clubhouses
  • workout fields
  • parking to accommodate 5,000 vehicles

The Chicago White Sox aren’t moving from quite so far a distance to “The Valley of the Sun,” as Glendale-area residents refer to the region. Presently the 2005 world champions train in Tucson. But as Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf explained, “A great many Valley residents can trace their roots back to or through Chicago. Many transplanted White Sox fans live in the Valley, so we see this effort as a terrific opportunity to move closer to our fan base during spring training.”

In its “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) with the Dodgers and White Sox, the Arizonans commit to completing construction of the facility in time for the 2009 spring training season, but will make “their best efforts” to have it ready for 2008.

Even before estimating the economic impact of the baseball complex, Glendale government leaders project that the new sports venues and accompanying entertainment options will generate more than $1 billion over the next two years. Perhaps the title of one of the city’s new web pages sums it up best: “Glendale’s Got Game!”

Robert McEwen