Half a dozen times a year, the roar of NASCAR comes to the Phoenix International Raceway (7602 S. Avondale Blvd., Avondale, 866/408-RACE, www.phoenixraceway.com ). The facility was renovated in 2008 and sports several bars and restaurants, including the new Speed Cantina, but its upscale makeover didn’t break with stock-car tradition. Fans still can camp on the grounds all weekend in an RV while watching dozens of high-speed racecars turn left really, really quickly. Unreserved RV parking spots are $60 for the weekend.
The Arizona Diamondbacks won a World Series in 2001—just four years after the team was formed during Major League Baseball’s 1997 expansion—and Phoenicians have loved them ever since. In typical Arizona style, Chase Field (401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602/514-8400, http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com ) in downtown Phoenix  has a retractable roof that can be opened on balmy spring and fall days and closed during the heat of summer. There’s also a pool in right field. Really. Single-game tickets can be had for as little as $5, but prices rise quickly to as much as $250 for box seats. Scalping is legal in Arizona, so check websites and the streets around the field (prices often drop once the game starts) to find deals.
The crack of the bat also comes earlier to Arizona than most other places thanks to the Cactus League. A dozen teams arrive in late February and stay through March (or the first week of April) at their spring training (www.cactusleague.com ) homes in metro Phoenix, including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.
Two more—the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies—winter 90 minutes south in Tucson . Games are often more casual than in “The Show,” and the small fields give fans a chance to get a close look at superstars and up-and-comers both.
Next door to Chase Field sits US Airways Center (201 E. Jefferson St., 602/379-2000, www.usairwayscenter.com ), the home of both Phoenix ’s professional basketball teams: The Phoenix Suns (602/379-SUNS, www.nba.com/suns ) and the Phoenix Mercury (602/252-WNBA, www.wnba.com/mercury ). Tickets for the Suns start around $40 for nosebleed seats and go up to $500 or more for courtside.
The Arizona Cardinals (602/379-0102, www.azcardinals.com ) spent years in the National Football League’s rankings cellar before making their first Super Bowl appearance ever in 2009. They put up a good fight, but many long-suffering fans would say it’s typical of the team to lose their lead—and the game—at the last minute. However, the team’s home at University of Phoenix Stadium (1 Cardinals Dr.) in Glendale is spectacular. The round shape of the building is designed to mimic the Sonoran Desert’s native barrel cactus, and it not only features a retractable roof but also has a retractable field that can slide out to catch the sunshine.
Thoroughbred horses win, place, and show on the mile and a quarter track at Turf Paradise (1501 W. Bell Rd., 602/942-1101, www.turfparadise.com ) five days a week October through May. Races generally start shortly after noon or at 1 p.m. in the spring, but the track is open 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily for horse workouts and simulcast races from tracks around the country. The 1,000-seat grandstand is air-conditioned, natch, and the Turf Club (only a $5 admission) serves food and cocktails. The management calls the dress code “country club casual,” but this isn’t the South, so big hats are optional.
To experience a temporary cold snap during Phoenix ’s not-exactly-frosty winters, either head for the mountains north and east of town or to Jobing.com Arena (9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale, www.jobingarena.com ) to cheer on the town’s National Hockey League team, the Phoenix Coyotes (480/563-PUCK, http://coyotes.nhl.com ), at least for now. The team may be moving to—where else?—Canada.