By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
Since online ticket sales became the norm over the last couple of decades, the need to wait in line at a ticket box office is so last century.
But not in Surprise, where some dedicated fans roll with tradition and continue to lineup for in-person sales, even though tickets were available months before online.
Kendra Pettis, the director of the Surprise Sports and Tourism Department, doesn’t expect anything different when the box office opens Saturday, Jan. 4, for the 2020 spring training season.
“Fans continue to line up for the first day of ticket sales at the box office, so I would expect to see some of our loyal fans lined up this January as well,” Ms. Pettis said.
Major League Baseball last week released the 2020 Cactus League spring training schedule for Surprise’s “home” teams, the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals. The schedule calls for 29 games — two less than last year — at Surprise Stadium between Saturday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, March 21.
The slate features every Cactus League team at least twice — including the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks twice in three days — and the Royals and Rangers playing each other three times.
The city is still working on putting together theme nights and promotions, which should be announced closer to the beginning of sales on Saturday Oct. 19.
“We are excited to introduce some new promotions and packages this year, including special deals for families and Surprise residents,” Ms. Pettis said.
Game times and TV coverage will be announced over the next couple of months.
Fans looking to purchase season tickets and mini plans can do so at SurpriseStadium.com starting Oct. 19. Specialty ticket packages will also be available that day online or by calling 623-222-2222.
The online pre-sale for individual game tickets begins Saturday, Nov. 16.
“As online sales have become more popular, and with the pre-sale opportunity, more people choose to buy online prior to the opening day of the box office,” Ms. Pettis said.
Royals pitchers and catchers will report Feb. 12. Position players are due in camp Feb. 17. At press time, the Rangers hadn’t announced its reporting dates.
The city is promoting its relatively new ExploreSurprise.com tourism website to direct out-of-town fans for hotel, restaurant and attraction information.
Next year’s spring training will be the first with some freed-up hotel space across the city. The Rangers are building their own housing facility across from the stadium near Bullard Avenue and Greenway Road, which means players won’t have to stay in nearby hotels.
Plus, the Hilton Garden Inn, the city’s first full-service hotel at 16601 N. Stadium Way, opened up just after this year’s spring training, which will throw in another 124 rooms to the mix.
“The Rangers facility will open up capacity in the hotels, making rooms available for more visitors and fans, especially during high capacity times of the year like spring training,” Ms. Pettis said. “Having the Rangers facility and the new Hilton Garden Inn available this spring training will provide visitors more opportunities to stay in Surprise in 2020.”
The city is hoping the rooms are needed after finishing last in the Cactus League in attendance this year. Andrew Bagnato of the Cacuts League said Surprise Stadium drew an average of 5,547 fans this spring, which was 10th among the Cactus League’s ten stadiums. However, all four of the parks farthest away from Sky Harbor Airport – Surprise Stadium, Goodyear Ballpark, HoHoKam Stadium and Peoria Sports Complex – all finished in the bottom four in average attendance.
The Royals turned in the third-lowest average attendance last year (5,732), and the Rangers were dead last (5,386) in the entire Cactus League, despite USA Today ranking Surprise Stadium as the top spring training stadium in Arizona last year.
Overall attendance was down last year across the Cactus League because of less games, but average attendance was up for the third year in a row with four teams establishing single-game attendance marks.
The topper came March 25 when 16,100 fans saw the Cubs play the Red Sox at Sloan Park, the all-time Cactus League mark for a single game.
“Despite an early start and unfavorable weather, the numbers show that Arizona’s spring training attendance remains robust,” Cactus League President Jeff Meyer said. “We’re grateful to the out-of-state visitors and local residents who flock to Cactus League ballparks to enjoy the best time of year in Arizona.”
New for 2020
Ticket prices for Surprise Stadium games haven’t been set for the 2020 season yet. Last year, fans could get on to the lawn area for as low as $8.
Ms. Pettis said the city and team officials will soon meet to determine a pricing structure, which will be announced closer to online game sales in mid-November.
The Surprise Stadium field will also be new next year after a nearly year-long renovation system that will bring a better playing surface for the teams.
“The majority of the renovations this summer have been done on the actual playing field, so most fans won’t recognize the differences, but the players definitely will,” Ms. Pettis said.
Parking has always been free for Surprise Stadium games, but some auxiliary parking will be moved this year because of the Rangers’ new housing facility.
Ms. Pettis said the city plans to use spaces on the north side of Paradise Lane as well as take advantage of its shared parking agreement with Ottawa University.
The 2020 schedule opens Feb. 22 with the Rangers hosting the Milwaukee Brewers.
Surprise’s two home teams will wrap up the schedule on March 21, with two other scheduled games against each other Tuesday, Feb. 25 and Friday, March 13.
The Royals’ first home game is Sunday, Feb. 23 vs. the Cleveland Indians.
Notable other appearances include the Chicago Cubs (Thursday, Feb. 27 vs. Rangers; Wednesday, March 18 vs. Royals), Diamondbacks (Tuesday, March 3 vs. Royals; Thursday, March 5 vs. Rangers) and San Francisco Giants (Friday, Feb. 28 vs. Royals; Wednesday, March 11 vs. Rangers).
The Chicago White Sox will come to Surprise twice over four days — Wednesday, Feb. 26 (vs. Royals) and Saturday, Feb. 29 (vs. Rangers).
Ohio teams the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds will make up four of the games.
Beside the Royals’ home opener, the Indians will be here Monday, March 2 (vs. Rangers), while the Reds will make appearances Saturday, March 7 (vs. Royals) and Friday, March 20 (vs. Rangers).
Three of the Royals home games will be split-squad: Feb. 26 vs. the White Sox, March 10 vs. the Brewers and March 18 vs. the Cubs.
The Rangers will field split-squad teams in Surprise for the following two games: March 5. vs. the Diamondbacks and March 13 vs. the Royals.
After leaving Surprise, the Royals will play two exhibition games Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24 against the Brewers in Milwaukee before the 2020 regular season begins.
The Rangers, meanwhile, will leave Surprise to host two games against the St. Louis Cardinals March 23 and 24 at Globe Life Field. The Rangers are beginning the 2020 season on March 26, the earliest date in team history.
RANGERS HOME SCHEDULE
- Saturday, Feb. 22 — Milwaukee Brewers
- Tuesday, Feb. 25 — Kansas City Royals
- Thursday, Feb. 27 — Chicago Cubs
- Saturday, Feb. 29 — Chicago White Sox
- Monday, March 2 — Cleveland Indians
- Wednesday, March 4 — Colorado Rockies
- Thursday, March 5 — Arizona Diamondbacks
- Sunday, March 8 — Los Angeles Dodgers
- Monday, March 9 — Oakland A’s
- Wednesday, March 11 — San Francisco Giants
- Friday, March 13 — Kansas City Royals
- Sunday, March 15 — Los Angeles Angels
- Monday, March 16 — Seattle Mariners
- Thursday, March 19 — San Diego Padres
- Friday, March 20 — Cincinnati Reds
ROYALS HOME SCHEDULE
- Sunday, Feb. 23 — Cleveland Indians
- Monday, Feb. 24 — San Diego Padres
- Wednesday, Feb. 26 — Chicago White Sox
- Friday, Feb. 28 — San Francisco Giants
- Sunday, March 1 — Oakland A’s
- Tuesday, March 3 — Arizona Diamondbacks
- Friday, March 6 — Los Angeles Angels
- Saturday, March 7 — Cincinnati Reds
- Tuesday, March 10 — Milwaukee Brewers
- Thursday, March 12 — Seattle Mariners
- Saturday, March 14 — Colorado Rockies
- Tuesday, March 17 — Los Angeles Dodgers
- Wednesday, March 18 — Chicago Cubs
- Saturday, March 21 — Texas Rangers
Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @thestonecave.