Salt River Fields provide opportunity and economic growth for Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Mar 16, 2016, 7:59 PM | Updated: 8:09 pm
D-backs pitchers loosen up their arms before Wednesday’s night game against the Reds. (Photo by J...
D-backs pitchers loosen up their arms before Wednesday’s night game against the Reds. (Photo by Jessica Watts/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Jessica Watts/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Since its opening in 2011, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick has rewarded fans with one of the best facilities in baseball to watch a game.

As the only MLB spring training facility built on Native American land, however, Salt River Fields has provided much more than that for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

“I think it gives us a lot of opportunity because it gives us a chance to get jobs,” said Andrea Ford, a member of the Salt River Pima tribe. “We get a chance to work somewhere other than Burger King.”

According to the contract between the Pima-Maricopa tribes and their two tenants, the Diamondbacks and Rockies, the majority of workers at Salt River Fields must be Native American.

For 31-year-old Jaydean Dallas, half-Pima and half-Navajo, the opportunity to work at the spring training facility was one he said he couldn’t pass up.

“I’ve worked other jobs and the experience wasn’t what it is here. Here, it’s an honest living and the experience is great. The pay is better and I make enough to sustain myself,” Dallas said.

Dallas, who is in his fifth season as a full-time grounds crew member, works year-round at Salt River Fields maintaining the field for various events outside of spring training.

“It makes me proud that the tribe is willing to expand and have a partnership with a major league team,” Dallas said. “It gives the Pima and Maricopa, as well as other natives, greater opportunities that may not get elsewhere on other reservations.”

Irwin Lewis, 44, a Pima Indian, lives on the reservation with his wife and seven kids. Lewis is a self-employed carpenter and plumber, but works at Salt River Fields part-time as a warehouse worker refilling the concession stands with whatever is needed.

Lewis said it’s important for people to know how the revenue generated from Salt River Fields helps the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

“This facility is one-of-a-kind and it attracts a lot of people, snow birds, from out of state and they get acquainted with our traditions and culture,” Lewis said. “As far as being a native, it has generated a lot of revenue, which helps contribute to the growth and funding of other buildings, like educational facilities on the reservation.”

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Salt River Fields provide opportunity and economic growth for Pima-Maricopa Indian Community