(Eds: Also moved in advance.)By BOB CHRISTIEAssociated Press
For thousands of fans arriving in Phoenix this weekend for the All-Star Game there’s no sugarcoating reality.
It’s July. It’s the desert Southwest. It will be hot, hot, hot.
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Organizers of the annual showcase of Major League Baseball’s top talent know all about it, and the five-day celebration that began Friday has been tweaked accordingly.
The All-Star FanFest is being held inside the air-conditioned Phoenix Convention Center, which is across the street from the domed and cooled Chase Field ballpark. The hospitality area, where guests of MLB and the Arizona Diamondbacks will party after Monday’s Home Run Derby and before Tuesday’s game, is in another convention center building.
And for those brief walks between venues, misting stations and water handouts are plentiful.
Spring training on the lawn in the desert this isn’t. A summer afternoon at an open-air ball park in Arizona is just out of the question.
But forecasters are not predicting a repeat of the record-breaking 118-degree temperature posted in Phoenix on July 2. Instead, the National Weather Service expects a more normal (for Phoenix) 106 degrees when the first pitch is thrown Tuesday.
”Thank goodness! Not to say anything, but 105, even though I know that sometimes you feel it is humid, your 105 humid in the desert is very different than 90 in the Northeast and humid,” said Marla Miller, MLB’s senior vice president for special events. ”It’s actually more comfortable.”
The only major outdoor event is the parade featuring the All-Stars, who will ride in pickup trucks and convertibles at noon Tuesday along a route cut to 3/10 of a mile. No sweat here.
Those lining the route might perspire a little, but again, there will be cooling stations and free water aplenty.
Public health officials say the biggest danger for summer visitors isn’t necessarily hanging around downtown, where air-conditioned spaces abound. It’s folks who think they can exercise as usual outside during the hottest month of the year.
”When you live here, you know that this is a rough month, you know that you’re going to be doing inside activities, and you limit your time outside,” said Dr. Cara Christ, chief medical officer for the state health department. ”But it’s beautiful here. So we do get a lot of visitors who come and think that they can hike, they can go out running, and just are not prepared for how quickly you can get dehydrated and sick.”
Outside physical exertion during the hottest part of the day – about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – should be avoided, and light clothing, a hat, sunglasses and plenty of water are recommended to avoid problems, she said.
Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall acknowledged that the heat is his biggest challenge and concern. But he said the team and the city are prepared. And he predicted that the game, Monday’s Home Run Derby and Sunday’s All-Star futures game will come off better for fans than in other cities.
”I’ve been to most of the All-Star games, and I can remember it being very hot in Philadelphia, in Atlanta, in Houston, really all the venues,” Hall said. ”Here it’s going to be much different because it’s all indoors and all within close proximity.
”A different experience with the roof closed, but that’s part of our ballpark, that’s part of who we are, and fans should also remember we do this all summer long and it’s never an issue with any of our fans or our players,” he said.
Summer is normally the state’s low season for tourism because of the sizzling temperatures, so the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association is hailing the event as a boon for the industry.
”If you ever wanted to go see a major league All-Star game, this is the best opportunity you have to come and make it affordable,” spokeswoman Kristen Jarnagin said. ”You can stay at five-star resorts for more than 50 percent off what they would be during the peak season. You can golf at a world-class golf course for a fraction of the cost, you can get a two-for-one spa special around the valley at a lot of the different properties. There’s great dining specials everywhere you do.”