In 2010, the Sounders FC were looking for a place to train in the preseason and landed on Grande Sports World.
Since then, the complex has grown substantially and now is the launching point for several teams around Major League Soccer as well as the home of the Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy team. Now in their fourth year at Grande Sports World, the Sounders are becoming a part of a long and storied history at the small complex on the outskirts of Casa Grande, Ariz.
Way back in 1961, the San Francisco Giants opened Spring Training at the newly built facility. Boasting a roster that included future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, the Giants were an incredible draw at the Francisco Grande park.
Named to represent the Giants home in San Francisco and the local flavor of Casa Grande, Francisco Grande served as the Spring Training home for the Giants for 20 years before they moved to Scottsdale and were replaced for three years by the California Angels.
Although it has been nearly 30 years since a Major League Baseball called the facility home, there are still remnants of that history throughout. The overhang on the north side of the hotel tower is designed to resemble the bill of a baseball hat while the stairs in the tower resemble stadium stairs. The pool is in the shape of a baseball bat with the hot tub representing a ball about to be struck.
In the years following the departure of the Angels, the facility was converted to a destination golf resort – still a draw in the Arizona sun.
Now, though, it has become a destination for preseason training for Major League Soccer and Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid – himself a San Francisco Giants fan – couldn’t be happier with the complex and the benefits it grants the club.
“We spend some time with each other, they spend some time with each other. We get to know them a little better. And it’s a good training facility in terms of soccer training. It’s not an entertainment facility, but it’s definitely a soccer training facility,” Schmid said. “The fields are good. The complex is nice. It’s good for our staff because we can set up our own training room, our own locker room, they have their own laundry areas. Everything is very self-contained so it’s a pretty efficient facility.”
The Sounders will train at Grande Sports World through Monday, then will face the Portland Timbers in Tucson on Tuesday before returning to Seattle.