It’s a little off the beaten track, but Billy Parker Field at Surprise Stadium, the spring home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, is a top-notch place to see a spring-training ballgame: The sightlines are gorgeous, the concourses are wide, and the ballpark design is striking.
Year Opened: 2003
Dimensions: 350L, 379LC, 400C, 379RC, 350R
Local Airport: Phoenix
Address/Directions: 15850 N. Bullard Av., Surprise. Surprise Stadium is located 1 1/2 miles west of the intersection of Bell Road and Grand Avenue (U.S. Route 60). Bullard Avenue is located off of Bell Road, 1 1/2 miles west of Grand Avenue, or 2 1/2 miles east of Loop 303.
Built for the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals, Billy Parker Field at Surprise Stadium features two 37,000-square-foot clubhouses with locker rooms, team kitchens, weight and training facilities and administrative offices. In addition, each team has a practice infield and six full practice fields.
With the full Phoenix sun out for most games, you’ll want to carefully choose where you sit. Both teams draw well in spring training, so a little planning is in order. But it is worthwhile, as Billy Parker Field is one of the most pleasant venues in the Cactus League.
The ballpark features a main seating bowl, a second level that features both seats and luxury boxes, and outfield berm seating, with a concourse ringing the ballpark. The best seats in the house are on the second level and within the middle seven or so sections of the main seating bowl: These are the seats that are shaded for the majority of the game.
The main level of seats extends all the way down each line. If the middle sections are sold out, you’re better off sitting all the way down the line as opposed to a section facing the outfield, as the seats farthest down the line are angled to give you a direct view of the ballpark. Unlike most spring-training venues, there are cupholders at each seat, so you don’t need to worry about some clumsy rowmate knocking over your $7 Dos Equis.
The design is modern and clean. It does have a little touch of the retro that’s proven to be so popular in major-league parks like Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but not so much to distract you from your spring-training experience.
The Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers both begin their days early: They schedule workouts at 9 a.m. daily.
Billy Parker, by the way, was a former major leaguer who worked with youth baseball programs before his death in 2003. He played parts of three seasons with the California Angels and hit a game-winning homer in his first game.
There is a plethora of concession stands along the concourse, with one big food court down the left-field line featuring Southwestern foods, burgers, ice cream, and fry bread. Down the right-field line the Johnsonville Brat area offers sausages, and there’s a seating area where a band sometimes plays late in the games. The hot dogs are worth seeking out: They may be roller-grilled, but they’re plump and flavorful. In addition, there’s a separate concession area in back of center field for those watching the game from the berm.
The beer selection is fairly limited: Miller and Bud dominate the taps, but worth seeking out is Dos Equis on tap.
The biggest flaw in Billy Parker Field is its lack of good autograph opportunities. Your best bet is to hit the ballpark when the gates open and try to lure a player to the stands. Also, players will sometimes sign autographs after they leave the batting cages located next to each side of the grandstand. But other than that the pickins are pretty slim.
When the ballpark opened, Surprise charged to park at the adjoining parking lot. After that plan met with much resistance from the locals, the decision was made to forego parking fees, but it was up for annual review. Since then, parking has been free.