You'd think that a ballclub with a name like "Brewers" would play in a place suited for rollicking good times. But Compadre Stadium, the spring field for the Milwaukee baseball team, is located in the wilds of exurban Chandler, Arizona, the national center for overbuilt subdivisions. And, as such, not that wild.
Maybe it's because it takes so long to get out there from anywhere else. Maybe it's because the Brewers' previous spring hub was located in Sun City, and there's some kind of weird lingering effect from that. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don't like Chandler. Whatever. Compadre Stadium leaves me mostly cold. The place is practically brand new, plopped down smack in the middle of large fields of future master-planned neighborhoods with names like Windwater West and Babbling Creek Acres. It's got adorable little postmodern architectural touches everywhere, as well as its very own little artificial lake.
MDRV The Stadium: Actually, the first thing you'll probably notice about Compadre is the fact that it smells like hell. It seems as if a manure-processing facility of some kind is located next door (I'm pretty sure the smell isn't coming from the nearby Sun Lakes development), and on warm days its fertile bouquet will waft over the stadium and parking area. It's yummy, I'm telling you.
The second thing you'll notice about the park is the quite pleasant lawn-seating area down the left-field foul line. Free-spirited fans can stretch out on blankets and otherwise pretend they're at Woodstock grooving on the tunes. Obviously, this also is a prime tanning area. The only drawback is the possibility of having your limbs becoming entangled with someone who lives near the ballpark, in which case you're going to need some tetanus shots. The good news is, they don't have to go far to get the fertilizer for this grass.
MDRV Parking: Some of the surrounding pasture land has been bladed and torched, and this is their idea of a parking lot in Chandler. Last season I found the going kind of rough, and I was driving a great big pickup truck with almost new shocks. The family sedan will make it, but don't spend too much time at the car wash during the days leading up to your Chandler excursion. They charge $2 for the privilege of parking on this rural soil, so you might as well enjoy it. The lot is located behind the outfield, and the entrance to the park is located behind home plate, so expect a decent car-to-bleacher hike.
MDRV Navigation: One way to get to Compadre is to drive on Alma School Road several miles south from the Superstition until you get to Ocotillo, then turn right. Another way is to drive south from the Superstish down Country Club, which is kind of torn up but which eventually turns into Arizona Avenue and which also intersects Ocotillo. These are both really stupid ways to get to this ballpark.
What you've got to do is take I-10 about halfway to Tucson, then get off. The exit you'll be looking for is Riggs Road, and it's not really halfway to Tucson but just seems that way. Then take Riggs to Alma School and circle back to the north. You'll thank me for this tip.
One of the highlights of this route is the opportunity to show your children what a four-way-stop intersection looks like. You remember, the kind with four stop signs? Where everybody takes turns going? Chandler apparently has quite a few of these left. Two of them are on your way to the ballpark. Talk about your living history!
MDRV Pre-game: I can tell you about lots of places to go that are sort of on the way to the game, but none of those places is even close to being located on my recommended route, so I guess as a matter of principle I'm not going to mention any of them. The places I would mention are all in Tempe and Mesa anyway, and this section is about Chandler. Okay, I'll mention one place, and it's in downtown Chandler and it's called Sideburns. If you insist on ignoring my navigation advice, you'll pass Sideburns on your way south in terrible traffic. Stop there and order a patty melt and some onion rings. I also would think that any of the daily specials are going to be excellent as well.
If your route should take you through downtown Phoenix, stop at Food City on 16th Street and get a combo burro and a Coke and eat on the way. They make their own tortillas there, and it's one of the best depth-charge dining experiences you'll ever have.
MDRV Post-game: Do you think this is easy? I drove circles around Compadre Stadium for several miles in hopes of finding some decent place to cool down after a game. I worked the phones. I contacted all the usual sources, although my Chandler sources are admittedly kind of thin. I'm going to print a few of the names I came up with, but in no way should you interpret this desperate measure as an official endorsement by me of any of these places, none of which I've ever been in.
The places are: the local Lunt Avenue Marble Club, the bar at the Sheraton San Marcos, and a little dive called Hamilton's Corner Bar, which is located at Ocotillo and Arizona Avenue and which actually is the closest joint to the park.
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Add to this list a Ricardo's Mexican-food restaurant, which my sources insist is pretty damn excellent, and there you have the list.
Someone at Compadre Stadium was smart enough to realize the island-like nature of the facility and had the foresight to organize several post-game social activities for people to enjoy at the park before they begin their long wagon-train ride back to the real world. Some kind of no-doubt-hokey "Blues Brothers Concert" is planned to follow the March 5 game, for example, and a "Country Jazz" concert is planned for March 11. Among the others are an "Irish Fiddler Concert" planned for March 17. Since they have to stop serving beer after the seventh inning, I can't see many people sticking around for these shows, the "Irish Fiddler Concert" in particular. But the depth of Chandler's cultural well never ceases to amaze me, so I guess anything is possible.
The really good news is, you do have a couple of imaginative alternatives to staying in Chandler one more minute than you have to. One alternative is to return to civilization. The other alternative is to get on the freeway and drive to Tucson. You're well on your way to the Old Pueblo already, and if you leave right after a ballgame, it'll be dinnertime when you arrive. Civilization is what Tucson may not be, but there's an excellent spring training ballpark down there, and it's well worth a short overnight road trip to check it out. I say, get going.