Cactus League spring training is an economic grand slam. “Today we have 15 Major League Baseball teams playing in spring training, and keep in mind Major League Baseball chose only two states to conduct spring training: Florida and Arizona,” Cactus League Executive Director Bridget Binsbacher told the MAG Economic Development Committee in February. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the entire state of Arizona to have not only an economic impact but to drive tourism.” Binsbacher, who also is a Peoria city councilmember, noted that the Cactus League brings 1.7 million fans to Arizona each year, delivering an estimated $644 million in economic impact from out of state visitors alone. These fans stay an average of four nights and contribute to spending not just in the Valley, but across the entire state. Spring training creates more than 6,000 jobs paying $224.6 million, and generates nearly $32 million in tax revenue. “We are an economic engine, and we’ve become an industry all our own,” said Binsbacher. “There’s Major League Baseball, but now there’s spring training, and it truly has become an industry. It’s not just impacting tourism, it is actually a driver of tourism. So, it’s important for us to pull all of this information together and effectively tell our story.” The Cactus League has been around since 1947, but until recently has functioned primarily as a volunteer organization led by an executive board. Binsbacher was named the league’s first-ever executive director in July. Her job is to develop strategic initiatives and work with the league’s 10 training facilities, businesses, and municipalities to promote and fundraise for the league. While out of state tourism is important, Binsbacher also has a pitch for local fans: enjoy what exists in your own backyard. She encourages residents to attend a spring training game in the first 10 days of the season, which begins February 21, 2020. You’ll not only get to see your favorite players before all of the rest of the travelers fill up the seats, you will boost the local economy. “Opening Day is really early this year. The biggest challenge of the season is that first 10 days to fill those seats. And who can we fill them with? Local fans.” Sports tourism overall contributes significantly to the Arizona economy, such as NASCAR ($450 million), the Final Four ($324 million), Phoenix Open ($277 million), and the college football National Championship ($274 million). But Binsbacher points out the Cactus League’s economic impact of $644 million is second only to the Super Bowl, which brings in $719 million. The difference? Spring training is a home run that happens every year. “Let’s play ball,” ended Binsbacher.