Thursday, April 25, 2013
The smell of fresh cut grass and hot dogs on the grill. The click-clack of metal cleats against concrete. The crack of a 36-ounce bat sending a 5-ounce leather-bound ball over the wall for a home run. The roar of the crowd a they see that ball disappear behind the fence and watch their player round the bases.
These are the sights, sounds and smells on baseball diamonds throughout the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., each March as Spring Training, Major League Baseball’s month-long warm up period for its players to prepare for the regular season plays out.
Scottsdale is the site of two Spring Training facilities that host three teams.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a 140-acre complex that has 12 practice diamonds and an 11,000-seat stadium that opened in 2011, hosts the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks and National League West rival, the Colorado Rockies. Scottsdale Stadium, a 12,000-seat stadium first opened in 1956, is the spring home of the San Francisco Giants.
Economically, Spring Training is the most important time for the city. One of the best indicators for this is the bed tax collected by the city.
According to a report from the City of Scottsdale Economic Development Department, from 2007-2012 the city of Scottsdale collected and average 15.14 percent ($1,568,717.83) of their yearly bed tax during the month of March and with the opening of Salt River Fields in 2011, the bed tax collected increased 3.44 percent, which resulted in an extra $962,010 coming into the Scottsdale economy.
According to travel-industry-dictionary.com, bed tax is “a levy imposed by a local government on hotel stays within its jurisdiction.” The Scottsdale bed tax is 5%, as approved by voters in 2010.
Bed tax is applied to a hotel bill when a visitor checks out and 50 percent of the revenue generated from Scottsdale’s goes to destination marketing for the city while the other 50 percent goes to tourism-related construction projects.
Rachel Pearson, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Spring Training is the most important time of the year for Scottsdale.
“You look at how much (bed tax) we project coming in, in the summer months we may only see 4 or 5 percent of the entire year’s collection coming in in those months,” Pearson said. “During high season, in January we see about 10% of collection, March is the largest percentage of collection.”
Pearson went on to say that March is the high season for tourism in the city and that hotels are usually at their highest occupancy rates, typically around 80 to 90 percent.
That was collaborated by Alexa Ohmann, the sales manager for the Scottsdale Marriott Suites Old Town, which is within walking distance of Scottsdale Stadium. She said that in March, the Marriott Suites is sold out and that room rates are much higher than most months.
The Marriott website showed that room rates are around $399 per night at the hotel, a 150% increase over the typical room rates in the summer months and a 67% increase over the winter months, and the hotel was already sold out for March 2014.
There are many reasons that fans venture down to the desert in March. Some come to get out of the snow. Others come to play golf. But the biggest draw in March is Spring Training.
In Scottsdale that draw grew larger with the opening of Salt River Fields in 2011, which brought the Diamondbacks, Rockies and their fans up from Tucson, Ariz.
The results from this could be felt immediately in Scottsdale. The revenue from bed tax increased $962,010 from 2010.
Ohmann said that people would do anything to come to Scottsdale in March.
“People are always going to want to go to Spring Training to see what their team will bring to the regular season,” Ohmann said.
According to statistics from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, around 1.9 million people landed at Sky Harbor in March 2012, around 100,000-300,000 more people than most months.
Mike Boyes, the co-founder of Charlie Noble Clothing Co., didn’t pass through Sky Harbor, but instead drove down to Scottsdale with his wife, Emily, and 9-month-old son, Merrick, to enjoy his first Spring Training.
The family contributed $150 to the Scottsdale economy and took in a game between the Rockies and Oakland Athletics at Salt River Fields.
“As fans, we wanted to go to Spring Training to experience baseball in a more intimate setting where you get to see the players up close,” Boyes said in an email. “With so many baseball parks in the area, you can see a number of different teams over a short period of time. Also, watching some baseball games in warm weather doesn't hurt either.”