Spring Training: a home run for Valley tourism

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz. -- The sound of bat to ball, the small of fresh cut grass, picture perfect weather; it’s a postcard for Spring Training, and Mid-westerners are getting the message.

“We came out here for the sunshine,” said Zulma Jennings from Chicago, enjoying a Monday afternoon at Cubs stadium. She and her family are spending Spring Break in the Valley of the Sun.

“We came down for a month holiday,” said Blaise Fornwald from Canada.

Last year, he and his family spent just a week. This year, when asked why they extended, Fornwald simply said: “Because it’s been really cold at home!”

That translates into more traffic and more money blowing into the Valley of the Sun. It’s estimated Cactus League brings more than $630 million dollars to Arizona’s economy, each year, according to a 2012 Spring Training study.

This year, parks are reporting increases in revenue, according to Mark Coronado of the Cactus League Board of Directors.

The new Cubs Stadium in Mesa appears to be hitting a home run with fans. Within the opening ten days, the stadium set attendance records on four occasions, according to Coronado, with more than 14,000 fans turning out for games.

It’s an economic pop spreading to nearby cities and businesses. A trolley from Cubs Stadium drops off spectators at Tempe Marketplace, right in front of Thirsty Lion Pub and Grill.

“We’re just noticing more traffic, a lot more customers,” said Blanche McElroy of Thirsty Lion. She estimates game days see a 10 to 15 percent boost in sales.

It’s a similar story in Scottsdale, the home of Giants Stadium.

“I think a lot more people are spending right now,” said Rob Holden who drives a golf cart taxi. Holden told 3TV he can make about $300 in tips on a good night.

“I think some of the best tippers are from Canada,” Holden confided.

However, cash is flowing in from everywhere. Barbara Miles from San Francisco admits to shopping, eating and spending money, when she’s not at a game.

Not to mention soaking up Arizona’s golden asset.

“This is why we live here,” said Rob Holden referring to the sunny Scottsdale afternoon. “This is why we live here; this is why everyone comes here."