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Spring training sites make good trips

Recently I conducted a scouting mission to Goodyear, Ariz., (www.southwestvalleychamber.org) and the greater Phoenix region.

The main purpose of my trip was to check out the new spring training home for the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds (coming in spring 2010).

I’m not familiar with Phoenix’s Southwest Valley (www.visitphoenix.com) so I took this opportunity to check out the restaurants, hotels, shopping venues and, of course, golf courses.

Nestled in the shadow of the Estrella Mountains, the Southwest Valley has become one of the shining jewels in the Phoenix metro area.

The cities of Avondale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Tolleson are making their presence known as excellent places to stay, visit and play.

My impressions of the new Goodyear ball park are that it is just that: A ball park! There wasn’t anything special about it. Nice, new and modern but it didn’t wow me.

One feature that I enjoyed was the right-field pavilion that offered an all-you-care-to-eat package.

For $30, I got a ticket to the game plus all the hot dogs, burgers, soft drinks and the trimmings that I cared to consume. There was also a bar serving adult beverages with major league prices.

A negative for this area and the rest of the ball park vending was the lack of Cleveland’s unique spicy, dark brown stadium mustard.

Parking around the stadium is plentiful and costs $5. It’s a short walk from the parking area to the practice facilities and stadium.

One of the Indians practice fields had the outfield configured like Jacobs, I’m sorry now, Progressive Fields. So Goodyear version of the Great American Ballpark should be included in the new Red’s complex.

Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport is well served by most major U.S. carriers from all local departure airports. I selected to depart from Columbus for two reasons —price and non-stop flights.

Presently, US Airways and Southwest offer daily non-stop departures.

Instead of the traditional rental car check-in counters generally located in the baggage reclaim area, Phoenix loads everyone on a bus and transports you to a surface transportation center located about 15 minutes from the main terminal.

I found this process to be efficient and not too much of a burden. The real burden I discovered was the extra taxes and fees tacked on to my rental. I suspect that these charges are helping to pay for this facility.

Lodging choices in the Valley of the Sun ranged from no-star properties to ultra deluxe golf resorts. A Comfort Suites, located about two miles away from the baseball complex, is the closest hotel.

It’s a good hike to the fields and there isn’t any public transportation so a car or taxi is required.

Instead of staying here I opted for an Extended Stay America (www.extendedstayamerica.com) property more centrally located in Phoenix.

Room features and rates were the major reasons that I went this route. For about $50 a night in late March, I got a spacious room equipped with a full sized refrigerator, microwave and a two-burner stove top.

Additional amenities included an outdoor pool, barbeque grill and a guest laundry.

Location was not an issue for me as I would be traveling to greater Phoenix area golf courses and spring training sites.

A unique eclectic dining spot and watering hole is Roman’s Oasis. About a 5 minute drive from the ball park, it offers hearty pub grub and hundreds of amusing signs tacked to the walls.

The clientele was an interesting mix of Indian fans, cowboys, bikers and business people.

My travel requirements for spring training 2010 are already set on my fare watch calendar.

I’m looking forward to returning to the valley and continuing my desert education on location research.

Got travel questions? Contact thetravelprofessor@gmail.com or call 740.533.4559.