Cactus League Journal: Peoria a Culinary Delight in Baseball Heaven

The ballpark is just northwest of Phoenix, right off the Loop 101 and Bell Road

In the Phoenix area, there are plenty of spring training stadiums that are easily accessible via the many highways that encircle the city, and the Peoria Sports Complex certainly fits the bill.

The stadium, which plays host to both the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners, is located just off of the Loop 101 and is just to the northwest of Phoenix in the suburb of Peoria. The ballpark is situated near the Arrowhead Shopping Center, which means that there is plenty to do and explore before even entering the stadium. Whether you’re looking to acquire some new clothes for your trip or grab a quick bite at In-N-Out Burger (helpfully located just down the street north of the park), the area has got you covered.

Once you get into the parking lot (which is all paved, unlike some other complexes like Sloan Park and Camelback Ranch) and enter the stadium, your trip is immediately interrupted by the delicious aroma of hot, fresh food at the gate. The first concession stand you happen upon as you enter the park serves a wide assortment of hot dogs, including an insanely delicious frank that has a huge helping of barbeque pulled pork on top, slathered with coleslaw. You can also get hot dogs with southwestern ingredients if that’s your cup of tea, but whatever you’re hungry for, you’re immediately catered for.

If you’re somehow able to withstand the sensory barrage at the gate, you’ll be in for a real treat as you make your way down the third base line of the stadium. There, a cavalcade of food vendors awaits, serving up all kinds of goodies. There’s a barbeque stand with pulled pork, chicken, and all sorts of other carnivorous delights. There’s a stand that serves Asian-inspired fare and noodles. There’s even stands for gyros, breaded chicken, and root beer floats.

The star attraction however is one that you’ve likely seen at your county fair, but that doesn’t diminish its charms. It’s a stand that serves all sorts of deep fried goodies, including deep fried Oreos, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Snickers bars. The ultimate treat is the deep fried Twinkie, and when you take your first bite of this gift from the culinary gods, you’ll immediately forget that you’re at a baseball game and settle into a state of perfect bliss.

Of course, baseball is the name of the game at the stadium, but your trip around the circular stadium is far from over. Beyond the outfield wall, there are several vendors serving locally brewed beer, including the Four Peaks tent in left-center field. There, you can sample from a variety of seasonal brews, including the delicious Short Hop Ale, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable when compared to some of the other parks in the Valley of the Sun.

Just before you complete your escape back into the seating bowl, you may be tempted to purchase a seat in the shaded “All You Can Eat” section. For just $20, you get unlimited access to soda, popcorn, hot dogs, and hamburgers, and best of all, you get some relief from the scorching hot Arizona sun.

That sunlight is pervasive throughout the ballpark, and precious few seats in the stadium are shielded from the hot rays. Fortunately for fans, the good folks of Peoria have thought through this predicament, and in restrooms at the park, there are conveniently located sunscreen dispensers, which fans can slather on free of charge.

Full of fried goodies and tasty beer, you’ll finally make your way to your seat, and doing so is a pleasant experience. There are some limited areas of metal bleachers at the park, but for the most part the seating bowl is full of newly replaced seats, and a recent renovation at the park ensured that they are all placed at an optimal angle for the viewer’s enjoyment.

Places like Sloan Park boast of the variety of food trucks that they draw, and parks like Salt River are located near casinos and are just as accessible off the freeway, but Peoria blends the baseball and overall experiences of spring training like few other stadiums can. It isn’t the newest park on the block, but thanks to the recent renovations and the absolutely ludicrous amount of food options that are present within its walls, this complex is a must visit for any baseball fan heading to Arizona.

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