Tucson Sports Venues and Historic Artifacts: Rudy Garcia Park

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

NOTE: The 18th in a series of searches for sports venues, trophies, and lost or forgotten artifacts in Old Pueblo.

Many people believe that the old Rodeo Drive-In Theater was the original location where “Rudy Garcia Park” is now located but they are only, barely, partially correct. This drive-in ran from 1949 to 1981 and it was located at 5101 S. Nogales Highway, so it was almost 100% impossible that this location was where the original Little League baseball field was built… in 1965.

The football fields at Rudy Garcia Park are located where the old drive-in used to be, but that’s it, the history of the original park and baseball fields is much more interesting. The baseball diamonds, of course, are located just north of the football fields and across (East Irvington) from the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. The original rodeo grounds were located near Banner University Hospital, but that’s another story.

American Little League Tucson was about to be evicted from its field at Government Heights School on Ajo Way (now called Hollinger K-8 School), then the league president Rodolfo “Rudy” Garcia had to act quickly, as he did many times later as a union leader.

Garcia approached the city and the chief of parks, Gene Reid, told him there was a vacant 28-acre spot across from the rodeo, but he “might” be able to help improve the land for baseball diamonds. The city’s lack of urgency and purpose led Garcia and about 250 community members to take action, even under threat from the police.


The army used the 28-acre land before the city owned it, and the concrete slabs of Quonset huts were still there. So, on March 27, 1965, Garcia led local parents to the vacant lot, and the group cleared a baseball diamond under constant police surveillance. Reid eventually started making improvements and he planted the trees that are now seen around baseball diamonds.

The park was simply called “Rodeo Park” until April 5, 1982, when only two city council members voted to change the name to “Joe Garagiola Park“until public pressure forced him to”Joe Garagiola’s Rodeo Parkbut it was still approved because other members cast their vote which was counted as a ‘yes’ in a parliamentary procedure.

Then, on May 21, 2001, Tucson did the right thing by renaming the park on a motion of Steve Leal, and a 7-0 vote, at Rudy Garcia Park. Field No. 7 still bears the name Garagiola.

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)


Named one of “Arizona’s Heart & Sol” by KOLD and Casino del Sol, Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as Top High School Reporter in 2014, he received the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and AZ Education Recognition News in 2019. He coached youth, high school and college for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girl wrestling and his unique perspective can only be found here and on Andy is a Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing Arizona’s top football player, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Amphitheater and he was recognized by Councilman Richard Fimbres. Contact Andy Morales at [email protected]

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