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D-backs, Rox unveil spring facility plans

D-backs, Rox unveil spring facility plans

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PHOENIX -- A Thursday morning news conference to formally unveil plans for the Cactus League's next showcase training facility wound up with an exchange of gifts among the presidents of the three partnering groups.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) president Diane Enos, per Indian welcoming tradition, presented handmade bolo ties and artifacts to D-backs president Derrick Hall and Rockies president Keli McGregor.

Hall and McGregor reciprocated with models of their respective uniforms bearing the Nos. 11.

But the real, lasting exchange of gifts will occur in 19 months, with the February 2011 opening of a 140-acre facility Hall envisioned as a "Disneyland of baseball."

The SRPMIC, which successfully competed against other suitors to host the two teams pulling out from the Cactus League island of Tucson, says the establishment of the first Spring Training facility on Indian land will "bring baseball back home," according to Enos, who cited a tradition for ball courts in the region reverting to 380 A.D.

The National League West rivals will be moving into a new state-of-the-art spring home in an unrivaled location of matchless scenic beauty.

"We're excited to enter into this relationship," McGregor said, "and humbled by this community's commitment. We accept that responsibility."

"This is truly a historic day," said Hall, accompanied to the event by much of his front-office staff and a cadre of the D-backs' interested corporate partners. "I thank all of you for this partnership. This will be a destination, the best in baseball."

Thursday's media event took place in a tented area of the Talking Stick Golf Club. In February 2011, the sticks being swung by Rockies and D-backs will start talking on the 12 practice fields ringing an 11,000-seat ballpark.

Ground for the multipurpose facility being designed by HKS Architects is scheduled to be broken in November, putting it on schedule for a 2011 opening, after the teams prepare for one more season in Tucson.

McGregor and Hall both called their decisions "difficult" to pull out of Tucson, where the Rockies have trained since their 1994 birth, and where they were subsequently joined by the D-backs, after training several springs in their Phoenix backyard.

But for the last Cactus League teams left in Tucson, the logistics had become unrealistic.

"It became a numbers game," Hall said. "It was a tough decision, but from the get-go, this location was best for us. It will be great for competitive balance."

"We're trying to grow baseball fans, too," McGregor said. "For both organizations, our goal is to become and stay competitive, long after Derrick and I are gone."

In envisioning the facility that will be located just west of the Loop 101, at what now is the site of Pavilion Lakes Golf Club, Hall kept dropping words like "breathtaking," "aesthetically beautiful" and "majestic."

"It will be accessible for fans, who will be able to constantly interact with our players," said the D-backs president.

"And it's just a great fit with this community. As soon as we had sat down to talk, we knew that our visions and values were the same."

Martin Harvier, the SRPMIC vice president and a former high school baseball coach, summed up the proud and ambitious Indian community's accomplishment in being able to attract the two attractive tenants:

"You can't hit the ball unless you swing the bat. This community has hit a home run."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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