CINCINNATI -- A couple of years ago, the idea that the Reds would relocate their player development complex from Florida to Arizona seemed like a fleeting mirage. This weekend will drive the point home that the Reds and Arizona are in fact, a real marriage. The ribbon will be cut and the Reds' new state-of-the-art facility in Goodyear, Ariz., will officially be open for business. The City of Goodyear and the Reds are hosting events at the complex on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, there will be a reception and facility tours for city leaders, local business leaders, constructional and architectural firms and the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker will be among those representing the club. On Saturday from 6-9:30 p.m. MT, the public will be invited to a free outdoor open house on the practice fields where the dedication ceremony will be held. Fans and families can also check out baseball-themed skill stations and clinics, and Reds great Eric Davis will be on hand to sign autographs. After dark, there will be an outdoor screening of a movie. "It's a publicly funded facility and we and the city wanted to people of Goodyear to feel like they have access," said Dick Williams, Reds vice president of baseball operations. Part of a development that is being shared with the Indians, who opened their portion last year, the Reds' $23 million complex feature six full practice fields plus two half-fields for infield work, and an additional grassy space just for agility drills. There are multiple bullpens and covered batting cages. There is a 43,000 square foot, two-story building for offices, clubhouses and rehabilitation. The Reds and Indians will share a main stadium that is adjacent to both practice facilities. Reds prospects have been making use of their new place for a few weeks in instructional league and the advanced instructional league. Big league relievers Mike Lincoln and Bill Bray, and Triple-A Louisville starter Daryl Thompson have been around to rehab from injuries. "The early returns have all been positive," Williams said. "I think the perception of everybody is that it's the best place we've seen anywhere." With the exception of a three-year period during World War II, the Reds had trained in Florida since 1923, including the past 12 years in Sarasota. Once the community leaders in the Gulf Coast city balked at funding an upgrade of Ed Smith Stadium, the Reds started looking west to the Cactus League. The Reds and Goodyear signed a 20-year lease, with a pair of five-year options that could extend the stay to 30 years. Williams has played a large part in the design and construction of the Reds' Goodyear home and is pleased with the finished product. "I had high expectations. Even with that, I've been blown away by the finished product," Williams said. "It's one thing to put a drawing down on paper, but what's really hard to project is how they will use it. Now that we have people here using the facility for the last four weeks, we've learned that it lays out well and is functional. That's the nicest surprise for me." The Goodyear complex will become fully used on Feb. 18, which is the tentative date for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training. "At the end of the day, you want it to be a place where players and staff want to go for work and like to be there to work," Williams said. "This is an investment in our players. We want them to practice and stay longer. This is a place where you hope people will want to get here early and stay late to work."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.