FILE - Virus Outbreak Baseball

A gate at the Chicago Cubs practice facility at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., is closed and locked Monday, March 16, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Arizona’s economy, already fighting back from the COVID-19 pandemic, could miss out on the tourism revenue from Spring Training if Major League Baseball owners cannot come to terms with the players union. 

MLB owners voted to lock out players once the collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 2, with little negotiation occurring between the two sides since. The monthlong stalemate brings about memories of the 1994-95 strike, when spring training cities lost out on the tourism dollars from professional baseball teams holding scrimmages in local stadiums, 10 of which are in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The lockout has local officials worried about another potential hit to the local economy.

“While we don’t want to speculate on the outcome of the ongoing MLB negotiations, we are concerned about the possibility of a work stoppage impacting spring training next year,” said Bridget Brinsbacher, Cactus League executive director, in a December statement. “After two years of COVID-disrupted spring training, our stakeholders are counting on a strong 2022 Cactus League season. I believe it is vital to the recovery of Arizona’s hard-hit tourism industry. I can tell you that we’re hearing from fans across the country that they are looking forward to baseball in the Arizona sunshine.”

Arizona’s Cactus League is less than two years removed from the 2020 season that was cut short as local officials came to grips with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Games were suspended on March 12, 2020.

A report from the Cactus League released on Aug. 26, 2020, said the pandemic-shortened Spring Training season brought the state an estimated $213.7 million gross domestic product. The total economic impact, the report estimated, was $363.6 million. 

In 2018, Spring Training brought $644.2 million in economic benefit resulting in $373 in gross domestic product.

According to Cactus League figures, the games in Arizona (a handful were played in Nevada) drew 912,956 fans in 2020.

“During the last two seasons, we’ve learned to be prepared for unforeseen challenges,” Brinsbacher said. “That’s why I’m confident that no matter what the circumstances, our eight host municipalities and the tribal community will be ready to work together to ensure a safe, secure and enjoyable spring training experience for all involved.”

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.