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Surprise Experiences 'Surprising' Growth

SUPRISE, Arizona (KRLD) -- For the 13th year in a row, the Rangers will be getting into game shape in Surprise, Arizona -- west of Phoenix.

In case you're wondering -- and I know you are -- how did Surprise, Arizona, get its name?

In the 1930s, a local entrepreneur named Flora Mae Statler looked to stake a claim on a parcel of land about 45 minutes west of Phoenix.

She ended up buying a small parcel of land on U.S. 60 and Grand Avenue.

"This was out in the middle of nowhere," says Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott, "just cotton fields, citrus trees and rosebushes. It was a very agricultural community."

She then took her daughter to see the land that she bought.

"She took her daughter out of the car and she said, 'Well, here it is – and I'd be surprised if it ever amounted to a thing.'"

If Mrs. Statler was around today, she would certainly be "surprised."

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"We're now the tenth-largest city in the State of Arizona and growing all the time."

Thanks in large part to greater Phoenix's housing boom in the early 2000s, Surprise now boasts a population of more than 120,000 people.

That's a mere 400% increase from its population at the turn of the millennium.

Like the rest of the greater Phoenix area, Surprise was bitten hard by the housing bust of the late 2000s.

But Mayor Wolcott says the city is recovering very well, saying that not only does the city have near full home ownership, realtors are finding it difficult to find enough inventory for prospective buyers.

In addition to the thousands of homes built there in the early 2000s, Surprise Stadium rose from the ground in 2002.

And beginning the following spring, the Rangers and the Kansas City Royals started heading there to prepare for the upcoming season.

Mayor Wolcott says like other Cactus League cities in the greater Phoenix area, Spring Training provides a big economic boost to Surprise.

"It's certainly a part of the year that we all look forward to, because it brings so much more (money) to the Valley," says Wolcott.

Besides watching the Rangers prepare for the upcoming season, there are many recreational opportunities in Surprise.

"We have a world class tennis facility, where people can play tennis and racquetball," Mayor Wolcott says.

And, of course, no Phoenix-area city would be complete without a golf course or two.

"We have beautiful golf courses in the City of Surprise, and they're all open for tee times to the public."

In all, 15 Major League teams play in 10 ballparks in the greater Phoenix area – all within an hour drive of one another.

Which city boasts the nicest stadium?

It depends on who you ask.

"We just happen to think that Surprise boasts the best stadium for practice for Spring Training in the entire league," Mayor Wolcott deadpans.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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