Spring-training trips are usually too short, so fans are always looking to maximize their experiences. In Arizona, there’s an easy way to create your own doubleheader: Add an evening ASU Sun Devils game at their new home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium has been home to Phoenix baseball since 1964, most recently as the spring home of the Oakland Athletics until this spring’s move to Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium. Over the years the Muni has also been home to Triple-A baseball, San Francisco Giants spring training and….Arizona State University baseball. Reggie Jackson famously was the first collegiate player to homer at Phoenix Muni, and the team spent a decade there until Packard Stadium opened in 1974.
And the Sun Devils are back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, leaving Packard Stadium (slated for redevelopment after renovations were deemed to be too costly) for the former pro venue. Phoenix Muni is much more different than those 1960s days: renovated for the A’s, it now features covered seating, an industrial-style press box/suite level and practice fields once used for parking. A new videoboard was installed for the 2015 season, along with new signage. The ballpark exterior pushes Sun Devils baseball history, as do the outfield signs honoring retired numbers and concourse displays focusing on topics like Bobby Winkles and the Packard Stadium heritage Around 10 sections down both lines were blocked off with tarps, shrinking the capacity to a more appropriate level. While there’s still a lot of green in the ballpark, the branding identity definitely screams Sun Devils baseball.
But the things that made the Muni a great place for A’s games are still present, particularly during evening games. The Muni has always been one of our favorite places to take in a night game; the setting sun showcases the hills of neighboring Papago Park, and the cool night air is a welcome relief from the hot Arizona sun. Most Sun Devils games in March and April start at 6 or 6:30 p.m.: perfect timing for most spring-training fans. (Check out the ASU schedule here.)
This is actually the second Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The first, located at Central Avenue and Mohave Street, was built in 1937, funded by the federal Works Progress Administration. It hosted several levels of Minor League Baseball – the Phoenix Senators of the old Class C Arizona-Texas League, the Phoenix Stars of the old Class C Arizona-Mexico League, and the original Phoenix Giants of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League – as well as New York Yankees spring training (1951) and New York Giants (1947-1950, 1952-1963). When it opened, Central Avenue and Mohave Street wasn’t exactly the middle of town; as shown in the above photo, the ballpark was surrounded by farm land and limited housing.
When the new Phoenix Muni opened in 1964, it was located in an even more remote area, bordering Tempe and next to attractions like Legend City, the amusement park shown in the photo below.
The Phoenix Muni you visit for an ASU game won’t have an amusement park next door: Legend City is long gone, and office buildings now dominate the area. But you’ll still have Papago Park to the north and plenty of good access to Scottsdale, Tempe and Sky Harbor International Airport.
And you’ll have something not previously found at Sun Devils games at Packard Stadium: beer. Concessions at Packard Stadium were limited, but the food and beer at Phoenix Muni are comparable to those found there during A’s spring training, as Delaware North still handles concessions. That means ballpark favorites like hot dogs, brats, popcorn and more at large stands down each line; that also means a variety of beers at those stands and a standalone beer stand near the ballpark entrance as well. Of course, the beer is not cheap — $9.50 for a craft beer and $10 for a bomber – but the selection is OK (Blue Moon, Coors, Miller Lite) and the lines aren’t long, even when there’s a decent crowd on hand.
So our recommendation: take in an afternoon Cactus League game and combine it with an evening ASU Sun Devil match. During our recent trip we saw ASU host the Long Beach Dirtbags in an exciting college game; add in a nice crowd of 3,030 and it was a perfect night.