Groundbreaking at Maryvale ballpark is ‘magical’
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
“Magical” was the resounding word guests used to account for the good news at the ceremonial groundbreaking at Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday.
The Milwaukee Brewers, along with officials from the City of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University as well as other community partners, all gathered to celebrate the renovation and construction project for the team’s spring training home in Phoenix.
In November 2017, the Phoenix City Council voted to renovate the complex, where the Brewers have played every spring since 1998. The plan keeps the club in Maryvale through at least 2042, the second-longest commitment in the Cactus League.
The Brewers will commit $63 million for renovation and development of the complex, including a dedicated Learning Lounge space. As a result, local school districts, students and families all will be able to take advantage of the academic-assistance services GCU offers.
Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela was on hand to remind guests how collaboration brings a “special” city to life.
“As a Maryvale kid, this project means an opportunity to encourage our students to give back to the next generation, and with the Learning Lounge there is a chance for them to succeed,” Valenzuela said. “As a policymaker, this just makes sense. Six out of 10 fans who come out for spring training games come from out of state. These are people that are staying at our hotels, dining at our restaurants, and there is tax credit that comes from that.”
The speeches of the day were filled with gratitude and confidence, from dignitaries to influential individuals who have played a role in the delivery of the project.
Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ Chief Operating Officer, talked about the three-fold vision of the club.
“First of all, (the plan creates) a world-class facility,” he said. “We’re going to double the square footage of our facility, and it’s going to be a model for spring training. Second, fans will be able to get a real baseball experience from the minute they park until the minute they leave. We’re going to have wider concourses and concession areas, a new scoreboard – this is only Phase 1, and we will always be looking for new ways to invest. Third, the Brewers will immerse into the community with the Learning Lounge and charitable foundations.”
The Lounge is a large, welcoming space where students can curl up on couches to read, work one-on-one with GCU learning advocates (LEADs) or do their homework on computers. The idea is to have a building of 3,000 to 5,000 square feet identical to the study area at GCU’s main campus.
In describing the partnership, Tyler Barnes, Vice President of Communications for the Brewers said, “Baseball has its roots as a social institution. One of the most important things that we do is bring people together and contribute to the community. The Learning Lounge fits very well with what our foundation is all about.”
Mo Stein, an architect with HKS, said, “I know when something is special and I know when something is a project. This is a very special opportunity.
“A lot of times the purpose of architecture is to spark that magic, and sometimes it’s even better when you can pick up on it and create it in a way people love and accept. … When it’s all said and done and you’ve been able to connect people, a place and bold ideas, then you’ve got something magical.”
Shari Stagner and Dr. Joe Veres, of the Learning Lounge were filled with gratitude, joy and disbelief.
“This is a special day for the kids in Maryvale, and we’re over-the-moon excited about that,” Stagner said.
She fought back tears as she added, “This is also an exciting day for GCU because what started as this little Learning Lounge has spread its threads into the fabric of the community. Who knew that our little, humble project would be a part of a ballpark and become a major component of community support for kids? It’s a win-win all the way around.”
Veres said, “The word of the day is ‘magic.’ There’s magic with the Milwaukee Brewers, there’s magic with Maryvale and there’s definitely magic at GCU, so when you combine that and put it all together, really, the goal here is to resurface that magic. It’s an overall magical feel today.”
The Learning Lounge was introduced in partnership with nearby Alhambra High School in 2012 as part of GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances Department and the University’s five-point plan to revitalize west Phoenix.
GCU President Brian Mueller approached Kent Scribner, Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, to see what the University could do to help Alhambra, less than a half-mile west of campus. Students at Alhambra, where more than 40 languages were spoken, had challenges with understanding English and staying in school.
The program provides free academic assistance and meals to students of any grade level and pairs them with a LEAD for one-on-one and small-group learning sessions. The University and the Brewers initiated discussions last summer to include a Learning Lounge facility as part of the proposed renovation of Maryvale Baseball Park, the 19-year-old facility that has been widely enjoyed by the community.
“We are going to have such great role models who can strengthen our relationships with the community because of our proximity,” said Dr. Tacy Ashby, GCU’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Educational Alliances. “It’s a double blessing and we’re very enthused.”
The expanded and renovated facility is expected to be ready by the start of 2019 spring training.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]