MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Spring training not only symbolizes the start of America's favorite pastime but a boost in business for shops around the Phoenix area. Some even refer to the season as "Christmas in February." Unfortunately, Christmas was cut short last year because of COVID-19. However, with spring training making its return this year, business owners are hoping customers and increased revenue will return too.
Maybe the biggest disappointment for spring training fans will be a lack of interaction with the players.
Mango's Mexican Cafe is what some would call a staple in downtown Mesa. Family owned and operated since 1996. For more than two decades, manager Omar De La Cruz says during spring training, they have always been busy. Sales typically go up 35-40%. The surge came to an abrupt stop last year when the coronavirus canceled spring training less than two weeks in.
"With business itself, it was a 65% drop in sales," says Del La Cruz.
The City of Mesa, home to two MLB teams for training, also took a hit. Mesa City Councilmen Mark Freeman says the city lost millions because of the drop in the sales tax it depends on.
"I compare it to the Richter scale, so to speak. It went below what we would even expect or want," said Freeman.
Many local businesses are happy to see baseball's return at the end of the month, but it still will not be a full house. Sloan Park will only be at 25% capacity, and restaurants must stay at 50%.
"We'll take what we can get right now, so that's good start," says De La Cruz.
Right now, the City of Mesa is giving qualifying restaurants $1,000 to help with expanding temporary outdoor seating.