A venerable and historic baseball facility gets yet another new lease on life, as Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field — home to MLB spring training for decades — will be the home of the Arizona Wildcats beginning with the 2012 collegiate season.
Year Opened: 1937; renovated in 1992, 1997 and 1999
Dimensions: 366L, 410LC, 392C, 348R
Local Airport: Tucson
Previous Tenants: Tucson Missions, Tucson Waddies, Tucson Lizards, Tucson Cowboys, Tucson Toros, Colorado Rockies (spring)
Address: 3400 E. Camino Campestre, Tucson
Directions: From I-10, exit at Broadway, head east and then turn right on Randolph Way. Hi Corbett is located on the right-hand side. There are signs pointing the way.
Hi Corbett Field is the kind of older facility that either inspires awe or turns folks off because of its relatively old age. Much of the ballpark dates back to the 1930s, even though it’s been renovated several times during the years (most recently in 1999, when a team store and a ticket office were added, and in 1997, when a $3.77 million renovation yielded new seating and expanded the clubhouses).
It holds 9,500, but the problem is that only 4,000 of these seats are any good at all. The box seats behind home plate are a great value: the grandstand’s pitch is severe enough to allow the seats in the back to be close to the action, and these seats are the closest to the concessions. When you get down each line, however, the seating isn’t so hot: the metal bleachers are totally angled toward the outfield and are uncomfortable, to boot.
The ballpark is in an idyllic section of Tucson, on the fringes of a city park and golf course; you’re far away from the city when you’re watching the Wildcats in action, even though you’re physically in a very busy part of town. (You’ll discover that fact when you drive down Broadway to get to the ballpark.)
And it certainly is scenic. There’s a Southwestern motif to the ballpark, something that fits right into the Tucson ethos and a look that will be embraced with more renovations before the beginning of the 2012 collegiate season. Adobe has always been part of the spring vibe here (the original configuration had an adobe outfield wall where fans sat and watched the games for free). Add a clock tower to the mix, and Hi Corbett is surely one of the prettiest ballparks in college baseball.
Hi Corbett Field opened in 1928 as Randolph Municipal Baseball Park, the home of the minor-league Class D Tucson Waddies from the original Arizona State League. (Some of those Arizona State League teams had interesting names, including the Tucson Missions, Lizards, and Cowboys). Later on the ballpark housed the Tucson Toros of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and the University of Arizona played night games there as well in the 1960s. The Cleveland Indians trained at Hi Corbett Field from 1947 through 1992 thanks to owner Bill Veeck, who wanted the team close to his Arizona ranch.
Back in the day there was much more adobe in the ballpark. In fact, the outfield walls were adobe as well. Fans used to sit at the top of the adobe outfield walls and watch games for free.
The Colorado Rockies then moved into Hi Corbett in 1993 for the team’s inaugural spring training before moving to Phoenix in 2011.
The ballpark is named for Hiram Steven “Hi” Corbett, the president of the Tucson Baseball Commission and the man who worked with Veeck to bring the Indians to town.
Photo of a Rockies spring-training game at Hi Corbett Field by Jack Kurtz.
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