Cactus League

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Cactus League spring training games start February 26. Cactus League President Mark Coronado will preview the season, and talk about the history and impact of the league.

Ted Simons: Cactus league spring training games begin tomorrow. Here now to talk about what's new this spring in the cactus league is the cactus league President Mark Coronado. How are you doing?

Mark Coronado: Glad to be here again.

Ted Simons: What's new this spring? What's different this go around?

Mark Coronado: Well, I think the, the newest, probably most glamorous piece of the cactus league is the Cubs facility in Mesa. You know, Mayor Smith and his crew and the city council and Mr. Brady there did a tremendous job working with the community to get them to buy in on $100 million facility, and that's huge, and we had our cactus league lunch today. And I applauded them because of what they have accomplish idea is, has not only solidified the cactus league, but it has brought a message to the community, and I call the community the cactus league community. The league is valued. And, and if we have to make an investment to keep it, we will. And the Mayor and his team should be proud of their accomplishments.

Ted Simons: Economic impact of the Cubs, in particular, with this new stadium, the cactus league in general.

Mark Coronado: The east valley is responsible for 60% of the economic impact in the cactus league, no question. When you, when you take the, the freeways and you divide it up, you know 65,70 % of the hotel room nights are in the east valley. The resorts are in the east valley. And we're excited because the Cubs, now they have the capacity, they have the newest facilities, and it's a shining star, and brand new and, and we look for them to set some major, major attendance records, so we're very excited about, about trying to Eclipse that 1.7 attendance record last year.

Ted Simons: That's an amazing -- 1.7 million people. Who are these people? And who is the person who attends a cactus league game? What do we know about them?

Mark Coronado: What we know is that 60% are coming from out of town. And they are staying 5.3 nights up from 4.7. And they are spending anywhere from $350 to $650 a day. And what's interesting, about the cactus league and when we talk about the $700 million economic impact 12 months of a year, what's interesting, they don't come to watch the cactus league ball games. When you ask them, what's the number one reason why they come to Arizona, to watch the cactus league, but they go to the Grand Canyon and go to Sedona, and they travel the state. It's definitely a tourism opportunity for us.

Ted Simons: And were these folks not coming during the recession and starting to come back? How did the recession hit the league?

Mark Coronado: The recession didn't hurt us at all.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Mark Coronado: No. I mean, we did not spike, but we did not take a big decline. The recession really helped, and you know, there is the old adage, it's the national past time. And if you are a baseball fan, you are, and the ritual of spring, I think, is in some, some of their bloods and, and I have to tell you that it's, it's -- the recession didn't hurt us, and we saw a nice spike last year, as well.

Ted Simons: And we have got the new cubs' stadium, and the D'Backs -- they have their facility, and the White Sox and the Dodgers, all the facilities are fantastic. However, you got some other teams, the Brewers, the A's, and some folks are saying, are they starting to nose around a bit saying, what's up for us?

Mark Coronado: Ted, that's our biggest challenge. During my tenure as the cactus league President, I have tried to trumpet the arm that we have always been the marketing arm. Buy a ticket. Buy a glass of beer, nacho, and have a good time, but what I have tried to do and tried to provide leadership is that we have moved forward with the corporate mentality and, and politically we want to be more engaged. Yesterday, we had our first legislative day ever in the cactus league's history, our 68th season, and we engaged with the, the legislature, Senator and, and members of the house and, and it was interesting. We had over 400 people attend. Staff and leaders from both sides of the aisle. And I think that they are understanding that this, this economic impact that we have is very important to not only the tourism industry, the hospitality industry, but a vital, vital corporate magnet.

Ted Simons: And with that in mind, back to some of the teams that might be wanting better facilities, is that, is that -- what is the biggest challenge right now for the cactus league?

Mark Coronado: The challenge is paying off our existing debt. There is no question. We have made obligations to, to provide major renovations in Peoria, and throughout the cactus league, and Surprise is due here in seven, eight years, and we have also made, if funds are available, to pay off debt in Glendale, and in Goodyear. We cannot expand until we pay off this debt. But, the real, real, real, from my perspective, the real existing situation that we have on the table, is renovation, and the renovation of the facilities. We did not receive all these teams from Florida because we were just the bright sunshine state. We gave them spanking new facilities that were state of the art, and this does not happen overnight. So, we need to have a plan, and that's why the efforts with the legislature is, is we know that it doesn't happen in one or two or three years. We're anxious to see who this new Governor might be. And, and the cactus league is anxious to, to really engage that we have some, some business type of dialogue.

Ted Simons: All right, very good. It sounds like things are running on all gears out there, and congratulations on that, and thank you very much for joining us.

Mark Coronado: Thank you for having us.

Mark Coronado:President, Cactus League;

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