Many spring training baseball fans made a mini vacation out of watching their favorite teams play around the Valley earlier this year.

The typical Cactus League visitor attended three games, stayed four nights in Arizona and spent a median, or midpoint, $405 per day, according to new information provided by Arizona State University researchers.

Six in 10 fans came from out of state, and one in four visited other parts of the state while they were here.

Diamondbacks vs. Indians

Collectively, baseball fans pumped an estimated $373 million into Arizona’s economy from late February through the end of March, according to the more conservative of two Cactus League impact studies, both released by Arizona State University researchers on Monday.

This year’s 233 spring-training games, involving 15 Major League Baseball teams at 10 metro-Phoenix stadiums, attracted 1.79 million fans, an average of roughly 7,700 spectators per game.

The economic-impact estimate from ASU’s L. William Seidman Research Institute was extrapolated from self-reported spending surveys completed by 3,900 fans — local residents as well as out-of-area tourists — at all 10 ballparks.


Food/drinks lead way

Food and drinks purchased at bars and restaurants represented the largest spending total by out-of-state visitors, at $123 million, followed by hotel rooms and other lodging accommodations at $90 million.

Other significant components included souvenirs/gifts ($35 million), groceries ($22 million) and car rentals ($12 million). The study didn’t include the amount of estimated spending by the legions of sports media covering the games. It’s not clear whether air travel was included.

The study estimated that spring training created the equivalent of 6,400jobs on an annual basis, though most Cactus League workers were employed no more than a few weeks.

Broader estimate at $644 million

The broader ASU study estimated the spring-training’s economic impact at $644 million but included some double-counting of the numbers, said Dennis Hoffman, director of the Seidman Research Institute.

For example, while the conservative study included only final restaurant sales, the broader study might also include the sale of supplies from a wholesaler to a restaurant.

In other words, the $644-million figure reflects “total output” from all Cactus League transactions, while the impact in final goods and services was $373 million.

The broader format is similar to how various other sporting events estimate their economic impact, and it provides some comparability to a 2015 Cactus League report that estimated spring baseball pumped $544 millioninto Arizona’s economy that year.

The 2018 figure of $644 million represented an 11 percent increase, after adjusting for inflation, compared to 2015. The Cactus League didn’t estimate its economic impact in 2016 or 2017.

Cactus League’s annual impact

Unlike some sporting events held here on an intermittent basis, such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four of the men’s college basketball tournament, the Cactus League generates revenue each year, tourism officials noted.

This month, the Valley received word that it will host the Super Bowl in 2023 and the Final Four in 2024, which will expand the economic benefits in those years.

Helped by sporting events, the state’s tourism industry generated $22.7 billion in spending last year, according to recent estimates by the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Click here for the complete report. 

Iconic family indoor water park resort to open in Scottsdale/Salt River Indian Community in 2019

CHICAGO, Ill. – (Jan. 19, 2018) – Families across Arizona and the greater Southwest will have something fun to howl about next year as Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., North Ameica'slargest family of indoor water park resorts, announced today it is expanding its paw print to The Grand Canyon State.  The 350-room family resort will be constructed on an 18-acre site adjacent to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, located within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Talking Stick Entertainment District.  Great Wolf Lodge Arizona is scheduled to open the second half of 2019, becoming the company’s 18th resort in North America.

“As we look to expand the Great Wolf Lodge experience to new markets across North America and beyond, we are excited to place our newest resort in Arizona and provide visitors across the Southwest with a destination that brings immense joy to families,” said Murray Hennessy, chief executive officer for Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. “The family-friendly environment fostered by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community makes Talking Stick the perfect location for a Great Wolf Lodge.  We look forward to being a part of this community as it continues to grow into the Southwest’s premier family destination.”

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Great Wolf Resorts signed a long-term lease agreement that allows the company use of the land near Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for nearly a century.

“Hospitality has been a constant common value of our Community — from providing aid and shelter to settlers making their way westward, to welcoming tourists to our several award winning hotel properties today,” stated Delbert Ray Sr., president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.  “Tourism is a key economic driver for us and we believe Great Wolf Lodge will give families another great reason to visit our Community, thus strengthening our economy, as well as the East Valley region of Phoenix and State of Arizona.”

Great Wolf Lodge Arizona will be year-round family destination filled with attractions and amenities for all ages.  Some of the highlights include:

  • An 85,000-square foot indoor waterpark, heated to a comfortable 84 degrees and featuring a variety of body slides, tube slides, raft rides, activity pools and splash areas for every member of the family – from toddlers and teens, to parents and grandparents.
  • A 27,000-square foot family entertainment center known as the Great Wolf Adventure Park. Here families can scale new heights on a multi-level ropes course, play a round of miniature golf, compete for prizes at the arcade, or step into the fantasy world of MagiQuest – Great Wolf Lodge’s exclusive live-action adventure game where players use interactive magic wands to assist pixies and battle dragons and goblins.
  • A first-of-it-kind animated show in the lobby called the Northwoods Friends show, which utilizes projection mapping technology on a moving, three-dimensional multiplane surface to immerse children into the world of the Great Wolf Kids characters.
  • A collection of complimentary family events and activities including Yoga Tails, a program that combines tales of the Northwoods creatures with yoga poses, and Great Wolf Lodge’s signature Story Time event, where children gather around the fireplace for a bedtime tale.
  • Several dining options, including a collection of eateries inside the Great Wolf Adventure Park, a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor. The resort will also feature Barnwood, a full-service farm-to-fork restaurant featuring dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.
  • Family friendly suites in a variety of categories and styles including KidCabin suites with separate sleeping quarters for kids complete with bunk beds and Great Wolf Kids character theming, as well as multiple bedroom suites for large families or multi-generational groups.

Great Wolf Lodge Arizona offers an exceptional value for families with admission to the water park and much of the family entertainment activities in the Grand Lobby included as part of the guest’s stay.

Meeting and event planners can also look to Great Wolf Lodge Arizona for their meeting and event needs.  The property will boast nearly 6,500-square feet of flexible conference space with breakout rooms, built-in A/V technology, customizable catering options and a team of dedicated industry professionals to tend to every meeting need.

Great Wolf Lodge Arizona will be located on the corner of N. Pima Road and Hummingbird Lane, adjacent to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.  The lead architect for the project is Gensler, a leading global architecture, design and planning firm, and Mortenson, a U.S.-based, family-owned construction and real estate development company, will manage the overall construction of the resort.  Neuman Pools, a family owned, design/build company of large scale water attractions, will oversee the construction of both the indoor water park and outdoor pool areas.

For more information on Great Wolf Resorts and its brands of indoor water park resorts, visit