Leaders kick off spring training in Surprise; Official shares stadium special events for season

Surprise Mayor Skip Hall welcomes attendees to the Spring Training Welcome Back Luncheon Feb. 15 at Surprise Stadium, 15930 N. Bullard Ave. [Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

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By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

City leaders, team executives and representatives of the local business community gathered last week to usher in the return of spring training baseball.

Mayor Skip Hall hosted the annual Spring Training Welcome Back Luncheon Feb. 15 at Surprise Stadium, 15930 N. Bullard Ave., sharing with the capacity crowd under the tent of the Sanderson Ford 1st Base Concourse a catered lunch and some words of encouragement for the start of the 2019 season.

“This is an exciting time for our community to welcome back the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers players, coaches and fans,” Mr. Hall said. “This year marks the 17th anniversary of spring training in Surprise. What an amazing history these two teams bring to our city.”

The mayor reminded the lunch-goers of the pastime’s value to the community, not just as an entertaining amenity, but as a driver of economic growth.

“Spring training brings over 200,000 fans to Surprise every March,” Mr. Hall said. “They stay in our hotels and they frequent our restaurants and retail establishments.”

Rangers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Jon Daniels said he has been with the organization since it first came to Surprise.

He thanked city staffers and the fans for their support of his team and for baseball.

“I appreciate the welcome here. I appreciate the city’s long-term partnership and everything you do for us. And I’m really looking forward to another great spring here,” Mr. Daniels said.

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore echoed the gratitude, saying this season is his 13th spring training season in Surprise.

He praised the stadium facilities and explained the importance of loyal local fans to the success of his small-market ball club.

“Surprise is a huge part of what we do,” Mr. Dayton said. “It sets the tone for our players and plants seeds in the minds of our players and the players’ families as they begin 162 games of Major League Baseball and all the ups and downs.”

Earlier this month, Surprise Sports & Tourism Department Director Kendra Pettis shared some stadium news and insights about the special events planned there over the coming month; we share her answers to our questions below.

Q: Have there been any changes or upgrades to Surprise Stadium since last season?

A: In partnership with Aramark, Surprise Stadium is excited to introduce a new concept this year called “The Porch,” which will include a container bar, classic yard games and featured local Arizona beer.

Located on the first base concourse, it will be open to all fans and is a perfect spot to enjoy the game with friends or the whole family in a fun, backyard party atmosphere.

Q: Are there any new or improved amenities at the facility?

A: The 2019 season will bring back some fan favorite amenities, including the Budweiser Legends Deck, Coca-Cola Family Four Pack and Military Appreciation Sundays.

Budweiser Legends Deck: The Legends Deck is an exclusive seating area that offers fans the ultimate game-day experience with a premium meal, drink voucher, and access to a private bar, shade and additional entertainment.

Coca-Cola Family Four Pack: This special promotion is extremely family friendly and makes it affordable to take everyone to the game to enjoy a ballpark lunch! You get four lawn tickets, four hot dogs, four Coca-Colas and four popcorns for just $44. (Games included are: Saturday, Feb. 23; Tuesday, March 12; and Thursday, March 21.)

Military Appreciation Sundays: To thank all of the men and women who serve our country, every Sunday at Surprise Stadium we will honor our military with discounted tickets for military members, a local military color guard presentation of the colors and special presentations at each game.

New this year, Surprise Stadium will host a special Fireworks Night, presented by Jimmy John’s, on Friday, March 22 when the Royals take on the San Francisco Giants. Enjoy a Friday night out in Surprise with a baseball game and fireworks – and the first 2,000 fans will receive a free koozie.

Also new this season, to thank our residents for helping to make us the number one stadium in the Cactus League as ranked by USA Today, we have teamed up with one of our local partners for Chick-fil-A Resident Days, allowing Surprise residents the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to select games (including Friday, March 1; Monday, March 11; and Saturday, March 23).

Q: There were task force recommendations last year about memorializing Mark Coronado … will those be in place for this season?

A: The Surprise City Council voted in February 2018 to honor former Community & Recreation Services Director Mark A. Coronado in the following ways: Renaming 8-Acres Park to “Mark Coronado Park”; Placing honorary street signs along Bullard Avenue (between Bell to Greenway roads) to read “Mark Coronado Way”; and commemorating a Mark Coronado Legacy Seat at Surprise Stadium by changing the color of the seat to gold.

All three items have been updated and can will be seen by fans this season.

Coronado was also inducted into the Surprise Stadium Hall of Fame during a Spring Training game last year and has a plaque on the concourse there.

Q: Will there be any other special events at the stadium this year?

A: Baseball fans can get an early start to the season by coming to see the 2018 College World Series National Champion Oregon State Beavers as they make their 2019 season debut in Surprise with the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic Series Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 21-24.

The Spring Training 5K run, presented by Jimmy John’s, will return 7 p.m. Friday, March 1. The course begins and ends in Surprise Stadium and includes a run through our beautiful community park. Register as a team and dress in your favorite baseball team’s gear for a chance to win exclusive prizes, including suite tickets to the game on Saturday, March 2.

The Sundancer Charity Game will be hosted 1:05 p.m. Monday, March 11 with all proceeds going to the Surprise Sundancers, the official non-profit volunteer organization for Surprise Spring Training. The Sundancers have more than 750 volunteers who provide exceptional service to the fans. The organization uses the proceeds of the charity game to award youth scholarships throughout the West Valley. (Find out how to get involved at surprisesundancers.org.)

The city will also host the Sunday in the Park Food Truck Festival 4-8 p.m. Sunday, March 10. The event features live music, amazing food and fun for the whole family. It’s located right next to the stadium at the Mark Coronado Park and is a perfect way to end the day after enjoying a spring training game.

Q: Can you share the average game day and season attendance numbers from the past two seasons?

A: The overall season attendance for both 2017 and 2018 was over 190,000. The 2018 average per game was 6,130, which was up 2 percent from 2017.

Q: Do you have any estimate or prediction of how attendance will compare this season?

A: Tickets went on sale early in November 2018 and the box office opened Jan. 5. So far, the ticket sales look positive and we expect this year’s attendance to be strong.

To buy tickets or learn more about special events and stadium amenities, fans can visit surprisestadium.com.

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