Spring training home to the Dodgers and White Sox, Camelback Ranch opened for business last spring. The stadium has an official seating capacity of 13,000.
Yet, on my visit to the park, a new record attendance was set -- 13,506. (I assume the extra 506 were crammed onto the outfield lawn.)
The park reminds one of a mini Dodger Stadium -- but without the upper decks. The seats are even the same mustard-yellow color as the lower deck at the LA stadium.
As of this season, a definite bonus for baseball fans is the addition of the famous Dodger Dogs to the concession stands. And speaking of concessions, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that prices were in line with other the other Arizona ballparks I've visited.
The grounds of the Camelback Ranch facility are immaculately laid out. I actually enjoyed the walk from the parking lot to the stadium, wandering through the manicured lawns, past the pond and practice fields.
And that brings me to another positive with this stadium, and the thing that shocked me the most -- FREE parking!!!
(If you're not familiar with parking at Dodger Stadium ... well you're lucky. It's a 'mere' $15, and you have no choice but to pay -- unless you want to park somewhere for free, and walk for miles, UPHILL to the stadium.)
But while Camelback Ranch has its pluses, it also has its negatives. Being just like Dodger Stadium isn't always a good thing.
First of all, this facility has far and away the highest ticket prices in the Cactus League. You'll have to shell out $47, PLUS Ticketmaster fees and surcharges, for a ticket behind home plate. The average for other Cactus League teams is $23 for this same ticket.
Second, another element resembling Dodger Stadium is the feeling that you're in a different time zone than the players. Despite the fact that I was sitting about 25 rows up from the Dodger dugout, it seemed like I was a mile away from the field.
Binoculars would have been nice.
Another downside with the design is that engineers made the rise from row to row far too gradual. By my rough estimate, each row sits just 6 inches higher than the one below.
So whereas in other stadiums, you have a clear view of the field, here, you're trying to see over the heads of the people sitting in front of you. (And no, it wasn't Kareem Abdul Jabbar sitting in front of me either. Just regulation-sized human beings.)
I find it truly stunning that $158 million was spent on the state of the art facilities at Camelback Ranch, yet apparently the engineering team wasn't able to come up with decent sight lines in the stadium. Wow.
No, the poor sight-lines and high ticket prices aren't the "ugly" at Camelback Ranch. That distinction goes to a good chunk of the fans who show up.
In all my other Cactus League ballpark visits, I encountered large numbers of senior citizens and families -- two groups who are pretty well-behaved.
But at Camelback, the well-mannered crowd seemed to be drowned out by the rougher types you'll find in any regular season game at Dodger Stadium -- ie., drunks.
If you do want to see a game at Camelback, instead of buying your ticket directly through Ticketmaster, try StubHub or one of the other ticket reselling websites. Thanks to a surplus of tickets available, I ended up getting my ticket for half of the face value.
Sometimes, yes, you can score a deal. Even with the Dodgers.