From soccer to housing developments, former Arizona spring training sites find new lives

Desert Sun Stadium is transitioning from a baseball field to a soccer field. (Courtesy photo from City of Yuma Parks and Recs)

In some cities across Arizona, the sounds of spring training have gone silent.

But Tucson, Yuma and Chandler, which each once hosted Cactus League play, are not looking back and have found new uses for the facilities.

Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field lost the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies to Phoenix, but has welcomed the University of Arizona baseball team.

Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma, which once hosted the San Diego Padres, and Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson, former spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, are both playing a completely different game now – soccer.

And the one-time Cactus League base for the Milwaukee Brewers, Compadre Stadium in Chandler, is gone entirely, demolished in 2014 to make way for a housing development.

Nate Myers, collections curator at the Chandler Museum said the Brewers, who trained at Compadre Stadium from 1986 to 1997, decided they needed a more updated facility and moved to Maryvale Baseball Park.

“The stadium was starting to show its age,” Myers said. “They wanted some upgrades for a new stadium and the city of Chandler wasn’t willing to put the money into those upgrades or building them a new stadium so they left and went to Maryvale.”

Myers said Chandler invested its money elsewhere. One was the infrastructure along Price Road that created a massive employment corridor. Having a MLB team in the city is a point of pride for a community and some in Chandler miss the Brewers, but Myers said the city has no long-term plans of bringing a team back.

Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma and Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson have transformed baseball fields into soccer fields and landed semi-professional teams to represent the cities.

“In the last year we more than quadrupled the usage of the Desert Sun Stadium bringing in more community events, bringing in more sporting events, things that we weren’t able to do when this was a baseball field,” said Debbie Wendt, Yuma’s director of parks and recreation. “So far it’s been proven to be very successful and we see that more and more interest in utilizing this facility.”

Desert Sun Stadium played host to the Padres from 1969 to 1993, before they moved to the Peoria Sports Complex. After the Padres departure, Yuma saw a future in soccer for the facility. Desert Sun has since hosted soccer tournaments, leagues and semi-professional games.

Tony Armas takes a swing in Desert Sun Stadium during its Spring Training heydays days in Yuma.(Courtesy Photo of David Simpson)

Tony Armas takes a swing in Desert Sun Stadium during its Spring Training heydays days in Yuma.(Courtesy Photo of David Simpson)

Yuma recently welcomed the newly-formed Frontera United Soccer Team, which is made up mostly of players from the surrounding area. The team finished its first season last year and is planning a second.

Desert Sun Stadium maintains some connection to its baseball roots with three baseball fields that are part of the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex. The complex is hosting the Arizona Winter League through the end of February.

Yuma decided to change its baseball stadium into a soccer venue after seeing the way Tucson modified the former Diamondbacks facility for the sport.

Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, known as Tucson Electric Park when it hosted the Diamondbacks, transformed several of its baseball fields into soccer fields.

“Now we have a multi-sport facilities where we can have more activities going on here,” stadium director Maureen Ochoa said.

Leagues around the area are using the baseball fields, and the soccer field became the home of FC Tucson, a semi-professional team created in 2010. International teams from Korea and Mexican are using the baseball fields.

The city has plans to add more baseball and soccer fields to nearby land.