Replete will all the amenities of the modern ballpark, Surprise Stadium has been the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers since its inaugural season in 2003.
Built on the site of a World War II pilot training field, the ballpark is the centerpiece of the 124-acre Surprise Recreation Campus, which includes six full practice fields and a half field for each team.
Designed by the ballpark conglomerate architectural firm of HOK Sport, Surprise’s Stadium seats 10,500 fans and has plenty of space on its wide 360 degree concourse to accommodate standing room only patrons on the rare occasions the ballpark is packed.
Fans approach and enter the stadium through gates in the outfield. The main entrance is behind center field, while smaller sections of turnstiles are located in left and right field. There is no way to access or enter the ballpark between the foul poles, as practice fields are directly behind the stadium and are fenced off to the pubic.
Surprise Stadium has a charming design that features plenty of seating options. The majority of seats are found in the main grandstand, which extends from foul pole to foul pole. A small upper deck overhangs a few rows of the lower level seating behind the dugouts. The second deck houses the stadium’s suites and press box, plus a half dozen sections of seats for regular fans.
A large grass berm extends the length of the outfield. The Home Run Party Deck is in right field. Fans who buy a ticket (priced $35 in 2008) to sit in the Party Deck get two drink vouchers and an all you can eat buffet, plus a canopy covering them. The only other seats in the ballpark with cover are in the upper deck; everywhere else is exposed to the Arizona sun.
Because Surprise Stadium has two Major League tenants it’s essentially split into two halves. Each team has a two-story, 37,000-square-foot clubhouse nestled in an outfield corner – the Royals in left, Rangers in right. Logos and banners for Kansas City are on the 3rd base side of the ballpark. Texas gets the same treatment on the 1st base side.
Two small souvenir shops cater to fans of both teams, one behind home plate and the other beyond center field.
Fans are able to keep up with the action on the field thanks to the large main scoreboard behind the berm in left. It features an electronic line score and video board. The scoreboard’s backside also serves as the welcome sign to the ballpark, with the words “Surprise Baseball” visible from the parking lot.
The playing field is symmetrical – 379’ in the alleys and a distant 350’ down the lines, where a bullpen is stationed next to each foul pole.
As much as any ballpark I’ve ever been to, the stadium in Surprise has an aroma of food in the air. That comes from the bevy of specialty concession stands, all of which are located down the left field line. Besides traditional ballpark fare, fans can choose from barbeque, funnel cakes, cheese steaks, and even fry bread (flat dough deep-fried in oil and served with toppings). You won’t lack options or go hungry here.
Kids are specifically catered to along the right field concourse, where a mini wiffle ball field and carousel provide in-game diversions. Both are free of charge.
Surprise Stadium is definitely a fan and family friendly venue. Adding to the atmosphere are the Surprise Sundancers, a volunteer organization of locals that help operate the ballpark on game day. Donning yellow shirts, they serve as ushers and are happy to answer your questions or look the other way if you want to sit in their section.
The Sundancers keep busy during the five week Cactus League season, as just about every day is game day at Surprise Stadium, a benefit of hosting two MLB teams (during the 2008 spring schedule there were only two non-game days).
Whether you’re a supporter of the Royals or Rangers, or just a fan of baseball in general, Surprise Stadium is worth a visit. The friendly staff will thank you for coming….and you’ll be glad you did.
Location and Parking
Surprise Stadium is, not surprisingly, located in Surprise, which is a fast growing city about 25 miles northwest of Phoenix.
To get to the ballpark you'll need to traverse Bell Road, a busy street full of just about every type of commercial development you can think of. Traffic back-ups are the norm due to the high density of development, which was spurned by the building of the ballpark.
When you finally get past all of the restaurants and shopping centers on Bell Road you'll see the light towers of the stadium on Bullard Avenue. The only development on the road where the ballpark resides is a Holiday Inn Express.
Parking is free at Surprise Stadium. The parking lot is big enough to handle large crowds. There is a small paved lot directly behind the stadium, but the majority of the spaces are in a large grass field a short walk from the ballpark.