The Community Preview Night for Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 10 was a success. Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members were given the first look at the completed spring training facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Salt River Fields is the first Major League Baseball facility in the United States to be built on tribal land, and it is owned and operated by the SRPMIC as a tribal enterprise.
The preview event began with Community members picking up tickets for Salt River Fields giveaways including pennants, meals and photos. People toured the facility, which covers 146 acres, by walking along the numerous pathways leading up to the main stadium and joining golf-cart tours showcasing the different areas of the complex.
One of the facility’s most unique features is its system of interpretive signage featuring the culture, art, songs and language of the two tribes. Trail signs at Salt River Fields are written in the Pima (O’odham) and Maricopa (Piipaash) languages and interpreted into English on the 12 practice fields, the main stadium and within the Colorado Rockies Clubhouse. The system includes 43 interpretive signs and banners. The signage is illustrated with images provided by tribal artists and photographers, featuring basket dancers, butterfly dancers, a photo featuring the traditional Pima game of toka, a historic team photo of the Salt River Braves baseball team, and various mountains, desert ranges, horses, trees, plants and rivers located throughout the Community.
Community members also saw the debut of the three new team shops at Salt River Fields selling D-backs, Rockies and Salt River Fields memorabilia and sports gear.
During Community Preview Night, a ceremony was held, led by master of ceremonies Ruben Guerrero, special projects manager for the SRPMIC Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs. SRPMIC President Diane Enos told those in attendance to take a look around and realize what they are looking at.
“We have a lot to be thankful for, and we are looking forward to having you (the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies) as our guests for the next 25 years,” she said.
Enos thanked all those involved with the design and construction of the spring training facility, and thanked the members of the Community for their patience and trust throughout this project.
“We need to make sure people know who we are: O’odham and Piipaash. They (visitors) are in our territory, and this is our facility,” she said.
Enos also thanked past leadership of the Community, and elders who have gone but are not forgotten.
“Our ancestors built many ball courts in this area, and it was not only a place to play together, but also to socialize,” she said. “We are proud to preserve this tradition.”
SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier said he hopes the new facility will inspire the youth of the Community. He said young Community members enjoy playing ball, and now they will have the opportunity to see professional baseball up close. He also appreciated the Native language signs.
“It is important to keep our traditions alive and to have signage in our language,” he said. “I believe our Community can hit a home run with these two teams.”
Arizona Diamondbacks President and Chief Executive Officer Derrick Hall said the SRPMIC is where they wanted to be, and he added that the team could not be happier.
“We care about people and customer service, and we knew that was also important to the Community,” he said. “We cannot thank the Community enough. We thank you, and we hope to make you proud as partners.”
A grand opening dedication ceremony was held on the next day, on February 11, at Salt River Fields.
A blessing was given at sunrise on a spot that is dedicated to the late Keli McGregor, who was the president of the Colorado Rockies. McGregor, who passed away in April 2010, had a huge impact on the Salt River Fields project before his passing. Enos, Harvier, SRPMIC Community Manager Bryan Meyers, Derrick Hall and Dick Monfort, the Colorado Rockies owner/chairman and CEO, all took turns sharing their memories about McGregor with a small crowd during a private dedication outside the Salt River Fields main stadium. McGregor’s widow was also present, and she shared memories of her late husband, including how he would come home to Colorado after visiting the Community and would talk about the upcoming spring training facility. She thanked everyone and the Community for their support, and shortly after she spoke she was presented a miniature sculpture of three water birds identical to the sculptures featured in the facility’s Reflections Trail, which is dedicated to the memory of McGregor. The Maricopa singing group Bird Singers and Dancers by the River sang as the guests walked along the trail to see the sculptures being revealed.
The program culminated with a tour of the new facility for the invited VIP guests, who included elected officials and civic leaders along with the season-ticket holders. The ceremony included a blessing by a Community elder, O’odham and Piipaash songs, and remarks by Enos, Harvier, Arizona Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick, Hall and Monfort. Then, to officially open Salt River Fields, the speakers tore a large commemorative game-day ticket to welcome fans to the Valley’s newest spring training facility.
Contributions by Richie Corrales and Levi Long.