Most think the coolest feature of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is its swimming pool or retractable roof. But those fascinated by the past vote for an almost 100-year-old building incorporated into the stadium’s southeast corner.
The former Arizona Citrus Growers’ packing plant, 2020. Credit: Ed Dobbins
The Arizona Citrus Growers’ packing plant was built in 1924, next to the railroad tracks in Phoenix’s warehouse district. Its purpose was to process and ship the co-op association’s 85 percent share of the rapidly growing local citrus industry. Growers throughout the Valley were moving away from the cotton market, which had recently crashed, to the expanding grapefruit market.
Architects Lescher and Mahoney designed the brick-walled and metal-trussed building in the Mission Revival style. Arizona Citrus Growers president Frank Avery called the structure an “architectural beauty that is an ornament to this section of the city.” The 150-foot-wide by 150-foot-long warehouse contained a full basement and a concrete first floor with work areas covered in hard maple to ease the stress on employees’ legs.
The layout of the plant provided an orderly flow of fruit from the trucks to the train. Field boxes of citrus were unloaded from trucks into the basement for curing and storage. Part of the curing process exposed the fruit to ethylene gas, which improved the color without affecting the taste. By the time the fruit was ready to be stacked in rail cars, it had been sorted by size, stamped with an appropriate brand name, and individually wrapped in tissue. A machine in the basement capable of making 2,000 wooden crates per nine-hour shift provided the boxes for shipping.
Chase Field Construction, 1995. Credit: NPS
Over 30 years, the Arizona Citrus Growers developed the warehouse area into a citrus packing complex consisting of the main building connected to a cold storage plant by tunnel and an adjacent structure for office spaces and additional storage. By the early 1950s, population increase in Phoenix and a trend towards processing more oranges and lemons than grapefruit convinced the association to move from downtown to an updated facility at Camelback Road and Grand Avenue.
This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, July/Aug 2020 issue, Vol. 9, No.4.