Gilbert’s Cactus Yards is open after a 19-month closure and $15.4 million in renovations.
The town had cited safety concerns when it abruptly shuttered the sports park formerly known as Big League Dreams in July 2017.
Cactus Yards reopened Feb. 9, and drew more than 100 teams from as far as Alaska for a President’s Day weekend baseball tournament that attracted some 10,000 people, according to park staff.
Robert Carmona, Gilbert’s parks and recreation director, said he’s excited to have the facility reopened as an "attraction for the community but also a hub for youth and adult sports within Gilbert, within Arizona, within the nation.”
What is Cactus Yards?
Cactus Yards, near Power and Elliot roads, sports eight baseball fields —each a scaled-down replica of Major League Baseball parks such as Chase Field, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field.
The park also has a soccer arena, batting cages, restaurants, and a playground.
In addition to a full renovation, Cactus Yards has completely changed its brand from the former Big League Dreams.
(Photo: Dylan Simard/The Republic)
The town-owned facility is a place for softball leagues and soccer teams, and also services Little League tournaments and kickball for all ages.
Renovations were extensive to ensure the park is ADA-compliant, such as removing tripping hazards and repairing the park’s grandstands.
The town also overhauled the park’s drainage system, redid concrete pathways, and gave it a fresh coat of paint.
Many of the fields underwent changes to further the park’s end of simulating nationally recognized baseball stadiums, including repairs to the grandstands. The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation renovated the scoreboard at the Chase Field replica ballpark.
Restaurants at Cactus Yards also were updated.
A subsidiary of the Arizona Cardinals, Craft Culinary Concepts, now manages two restaurants with views of the ball fields and a concession area inside the soccer arena.
"They’ve done a fantastic job of renovating the insides and creating a pretty amazing menu that’s had a lot of success,” Carmona said.
The menu is classic ballpark fare, such as hot dogs, pizza, the "world’s greatest" pretzels, dirty fries, and nachos.
How much does it cost families to go?
The park is free to the public during the week, with a $5 gate fee over the weekend during private promoter-run tournaments.
Gilbert residents have free access during all hours of operation, including weekends.
Batting cages are $1 for 20 pitches.
Fields and the indoor soccer arena must be booked in advance for league play games. Much of the current year has already been booked, according to park staff.
Gilbert spent $42.7 million to open the facility as Big League Dreams in 2008, but encountered numerous problems.
The town sued builder M.A. Mortenson alleging faulty construction in 2013. Mortenson settled with the town for $13.5 million. Those funds are what has paid for most of the $15.4 million in renovations.
The town abruptly closed the facility four years later and said the private operator, Big League Dreams Gilbert, hadn’t properly maintained the venue. The town and former operator continue that battle in court.
Meanwhile, the town is now operating the venue renamed Cactus Yards, estimating its annual net loss at about $1.1 million. Some town leaders have balked at the expense, while others point out that parks are community amenities and not moneymakers.
Reach the reporter at Dylan.Simard@azcentral.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dylansimard.
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