In 1961, San Francisco Giants owner Horace Stoneham unveiled his grand vision of the ultimate spring training facility, the Francisco Grande Motor Inn.
Stoneham (1903-1990), inherited the New York Giants in 1936 from his father John, then moved the team to San Francisco after the 1958 season. Likewise, he moved the Giants spring training from Florida to Arizona soon after, becoming the first team to form what would eventually become the Cactus League.
The Francisco Grande, named in part for the Giants’ hometown, and part for their new training grounds in Casa Grande, was designed as a modern ode to baseball with touches of the old west that could house the team’s players in comfort during training and open to travelers as well.
The nine-story complex offered 64 rooms, a dining room, complete with a bar, and a skyline cocktail lounge; the penthouse suite was often used by John Wayne, who owned the nearby cattle operation, Red River Ranch.
During spring training, players and coaches had use of 3 diamonds, with a specially-designed two-story observation tower in the middle. When not training, players such as Willie Mays were often spotted playing a few rounds on the complex’s golf course.
Guests could also swim or relax next to the baseball bat-shaped pool, the round “baseball” jacuzzi, and park in the catcher’s mitt shaped parking lot. The hotel itself was curved to mimic the stands of a ballpark, with a top floor overhang that was meant to represent a ballcap.
Stoneham sold the Giants in 1976, but they continued to use Francisco Grande until 1981, when they moved their training sessions to Scottsdale. The California Angels used the grounds for the next two years, but were the final MLB team to do so.
After an $8.5 million renovation completed in 2005, the former motor inn now operates as the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort and offers training facilities to 16 major league soccer teams while continuing to pay homage to its years as the Giants training grounds.