TEMPE, AZ — Baseball fans and Arizona businesses said they were happy to see at least some form of Spring Training this year.
After dealing with the pandemic and COVID-related restrictions, Cactus League officials hoped to restore some normalcy this season. However, because of the lockout, half of the Spring Training games were canceled.
"I'm glad we had a season," said Cactus League Executive Director Bridget Binsbacher.
"I think everyone is glad to welcome baseball back into our facilities and fans back into our facilities. That's the best part," she added.
Binsbacher told ABC15 that despite the dip in attendance and shortened season, she thought the season they had was a success.
According to Binsbacher, the average number of people at each game was 5,700. That's about 2,000 less than in 2019.
Still, she's optimistic that 2023 will be the best season yet.
"People were so ready this year and I think it's up to us to continue to talk about the opportunity, open the door and remind them we're here," said Binsbacher.
In addition to attracting people from out of state, she said she plans on promoting the league to locals.
"And I think we'll be able to see numbers beyond what we've seen in the past," she said.
The last time the league did an economic impact study before COVID was in 2018. That year, the league had a $644 million impact on the area.
Meanwhile, local businesses told ABC15 they were happy with the increased business they did see from fans over the last month.
"I did not think we'd be here today," said Doug Doyle, the owner of Fired Pie. "I didn't think it was going to happen at all so we feel very fortunate that we did get three weeks of Spring Training and it's really helped out a lot of our locations."
Doyle told ABC15 he has 300 employees working at 18 locations. He said hiring has been tough but said he did take on extra staff to help with demand.
"A lot of our stores are located where people are coming into town," he said.
"We rely on out of towners for a lot of our business," Doyle added.
Cactus League officials said they plan on working with municipalities during the offseason to make sure that fields are ready to go for next year and continue promoting the league before the 2023 season starts.