By Maggie Pingolt | Photo by Keith Whitney
The baseball-bat-shaped swimming pool says a lot about the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort. The hotel is named for the San Francisco Giants, who played and trained on the grounds in the 1960s. In fact, the resort’s entire construction was inspired by baseball — the main towers even have an overhang like the rim of a baseball cap.
In 1961, Giants owner Horace Stoneham built the resort to be his team’s spring-training headquarters. Since then, the California Angels and a few teams from the United States Football League have also practiced there.
Today, athletes, coaches and recruiters frequent the resort, and the ambience and amenities reflect a sophisticated air. That’s due, in part, to the property’s multimillion-dollar facelift in 2003, which was overseen by Pamela Hughes, The Ritz-Carlton’s décor guru. She worked to modernize the resort but didn’t compromise its character.
From the moment you walk through the massive, Spanish-influenced lobby door, you’ll be inspired. The lobby is filled with light from floor-length windows, and the sitting area features leather armchairs so comfortable you’ll want to sink in and take a snooze. When you wake up, take a peek through the windows and you’ll see the Francisco Grande’s traditional-style golf course, which has one of the longest layouts in the state. It measures nearly 7,600 yards from the back tees — when Willie Mays wasn’t at batting practice, he was practicing another type of swing.
Pre- and postgame fare is available at one of the two restaurants located just east of the main tower: Duke’s (named after John Wayne) and Legends. At night, guests are encouraged to enjoy the night sky from a seat around the campfire, or enjoy a cold one at Duke’s bar. When you’re done gazing at the stars, tuck into a sweet Western haven. Rooms are large and pay homage to Casa Grande’s heritage, with wood-heavy décor and Spanish tapestries.
What started as a home for spring-training baseball players and elite golfers is now a mecca for professional sports preparation. The resort, in conjunction with the city of Casa Grande, also built a state-of-the-art sports center next door, which houses the only full-time residential program affiliated with a minor-league soccer team.
Just as baseball has evolved since the 1960s, so, too, has the Francisco Grande. Its halls have hosted legends, and now, thanks to a facelift and the new sports center, the hotel is poised to draw in a new crop of sports greats.