“Honestly, I feel like the community owns this place…”
So where did the idea for Triple Play come from?
About fifteen years ago this accident near the school sparked a conversation in the community about how there is nothing for kids to do out here (in Sahuarita). People would comment on how they have to go down to Tucson or Nogales to do anything. At the time, I was coaching little league baseball and another one of the coaches and I got to talking. He said to me “Hey, I own this little sliver of land in Sahuarita and you’ve always talked about starting up some batting cages, how would you like to do something like that?” And you know we talked about it and nothing came of it until after another one of those little league games, we went to a Pizza Hut or something, and our kids are running around and we were basically told “we don’t want your kids running around” and we got to talking about those batting cages again. We said we wanted to create a place where, after a game, parents could just sit around and have a beer and let their kids have some fun. And my friend said “let’s do that”. A month and a half later we were breaking ground.
Well, it’s definitely a lot more than batting cages now. How did this all happen?
When we first started, we put in the golf course. That little kiosk out there? (Joe gestures to a building outside the size of a closet). That’s what we worked out of. And that’s really all there was out here. People would come and golf and when we got some money from the golfing course, we started building the batting cages and then when that was taking off we started constructing the building… and then while we were literally building the building, with some help from my former students, you know people just wanted to help… Anyway, as we’re literally constructing the place, I thought to myself, if I’m gonna be here all the time I want to have some TVs up to watch my Buffalo Bills play. So, then you know, we’re showing games now! And we thought, you kind of have to have beer for people who are watching their game so we got a liquor license. And then we were selling snack food and we thought to ourselves we should probably be making some real food too and then we started constructing the kitchen area. This whole thing really just built on itself, you know? I mean, then we had this area (Joe points to the cornhole boards outside where dozens of people are playing) that was just dirt and we put in only two cornhole boards… only we got lots of people who wanted to do that and so then we brought in a couple more cornhole boards. It was still super popular so at some point we thought we better take down the horseshoe pits and put in some more cornhole boards and places to play. We put out there what the people want, you know?
That sounds fantastic. Like this place really grew out of the community. Tell me about the Banquet Room! I haven’t reserved that in a while…
The Wildcat room, that is our banquet room, that’s for end of the year parties and banquets and people can just reserve it and use it. See when we were doing all this years ago, I was really involved with all of these little leagues for football and soccer, and so it was really important to me that we provide a sort of headquarters for all of that in the community. So, now, any team that needs a sign-up place for registration or a place to hang out or after-season parties, we really just open our doors and just do it. We don’t overthink it. My daughter and I own this place and we do what we want to do.
We rent it out for $30 an hour. But we just like to keep it full. We do allow people to bring their own food. We’ve done tons of baby showers. So you know, people will bring their decorations and their own food. We just ask that if you do bring your own food that the food stays in that room and we do charge a $25 clean up fee but then, you have to buy your alcohol through us. I mean it works out for us, when parents host a birthday party even if they bring their own food they usually buy wristbands for the kids so they can play.
Would that (Wildcat Room) be rented out through a website?
I don’t mind if they call our number and talk to me.
I’ve only ever mini-golfed here at Triple Play but I’ve heard so much about the Cornhole tournaments. Tell me all about them. Can anybody sign up? How much does it cost? Tell me everything.
So many answers to that. The main point of the cornhole tournaments is really the fundraising, that is our bread and butter here. Those fundraising drives are excellent. I mean, the more money we give back the more money we make and so that is our business model. And with the cornhole, we do that five nights a week. On Saturdays, we normally reserve that for fundraisers and whatever the organization wants to charge. Most people charge like $10. We also have a Tuesday night, that’s just a $5 drop-in and great for beginners. You could show up on a Tuesday at 6:30 and sign up and you’re gonna play four games and you could go as high as six or seven. And we teach people how to play. So many people have started out not knowing how to play but there is such a great “cornhole community” and they love to teach people how to play. And all those $5 entries really go back to prizes for the winners and the people who are participating. We don’t really make money off that. Monday we do a competitive night for $10. And people come with their own partner, and people really battle for that title. Some people will come over just to watch. Friday night, we call it Family night, it’s only $5, but there you get new partners every round, so you know you don’t just get two people who are gonna win at every round. And we like the little kids to play. It really is just a big family night.
I love the sweet potato fries here. Tell us what your favorite menu item is?
The wings! I’m from Buffalo so my buffalo wings, I love them. I eat them religiously. We’re pretty good. Wings are hard too you know? Because there’ll be like a huge shortage on chicken wings and the prices will jump but maybe this is why I’d make a terrible businessman, I won’t raise my prices. I feel like, I don’t want people to feel like I’m gouging them, because eventually the prices (of the chicken wings) will come back down you know? And I’d rather people just keep coming here and eating our wings.
And your favorite event / fundraiser that you’ve hosted ?
We started a non-profit here and it is called “Bags, Boards, and Blessings” and so basically, we run cornhole tournaments throughout the year and we raise money and with that money, at Thanksgiving, we feed whoever wants to come in. On Thanksgiving Day, we open for four hours and whoever walks through the door- we feed them for free. We open up the golf course and the batting cages for free and anybody in the community can play and eat for four hours. And so we use that money for that, but we also try to give out around $4000 and $6000 worth of gift baskets and stuff for Christmas. We try to help out as many families as we can. And we keep our ear to the ground, someone will tell us that ‘hey this family is going through a hard time’, or this person is unemployed, or this mother is not sure how she’s gonna get through Christmas, and we just help out as best we can. Over the last two years we’ve been able to give some families a used car. One of our mechanics that plays cornhole here works on the cars and makes sure it’s in good condition and we donate the car to a family who needs it. This year, we filled up the car with gifts for a family of six. And it was wonderful. It gives me goosebumps remembering that, and that was probably my favorite fundraising event. We keep it pretty informal you know? We find out someone needs help and we do our best. And we do this year round too we don’t just do it around the holidays, I mean just recently this mom on the Rancho page posted that she was upset someone had stolen her son’s bike, and she really just hoped someone would return it to her, and well she showed up to one of our cornhole tournaments we just brought out a brand new bike and gave it to her.
Now, odd question for you, considering that your business started as creating something for families here in Sahuarita so that Sahuarita families didn’t have to go up to Tucson. Let’s play on that a little. What does Triple Play have that places in Tucson don’t?
Honestly, I feel like the community owns this place. People who live here buy into that. I mean, I have people here today (the day of the interview) from Tucson who have never been here before and a lot of them are like “why haven’t we heard about this place?” and they’re impressed. Probably the biggest thing for them is we don’t gouge people. For $10 you can come here with your kids all day long. A kid can bat a hundred times out there for that. A kid could putt around the golf course eight times if he wants to. You know, meanwhile you go into Tucson and you pay as you go. So, when my kids were young for example, I’d take ‘em someplace in Tucson and they’d eat through nine bucks worth of entertainment in twenty minutes and then they want to play again and I‘m like… when I was thinking about what I wanted from this place…. I thought a parent should be able to spend eight dollars and spend an hour or more out here. One of the guys today even noticed I left the remote controls out too, and I was like well yeah (laughs) so if you can’t hear you can turn up the TV or if you want to change the channel, change the channel, and that’s something I don’t think you have in so many places in Tucson. We’re kinda like a handshake agreement, you walk in here and you’re gonna respect our place and I’m gonna respect you to do that. I don’t gouge people and they don’t gouge me. And if they don’t honor that, I mean, we’ll deal with that when we have to but …. man, the community really delivers. The kids can come and play all day.
One time -you know how we do everything through internet nowadays- well one of our guys who comes out to play cornhole noticed that the internet outside kept cutting out on us and three days later, he takes half an hour and he installs a booster for us out there and tells us “you won’t have an internet problem again”. And he just did that for us! Another guy who comes in and plays cornhole pointed at our cornhole boards and told us, they’re great you know but they’re all different… we’re gonna come out and make some new boards for you. He only billed me so much, he was great… and three weeks later I had brand new boards. And some other guys in the community noticed adults would kinda just hold their beers and he said it’d be cool if you could put those on a stand, he goes home and two weeks later comes back with stands and beer holders for the cornhole area. Everybody just buys into the community feel. I come here when I come home late from school…. And these people have already come here and helped me set up the boards. It’s so homegrown and just so cool. I really feel like I could be gone for a week and this place would be just fine.
- We loved interviewing Joe! His down-to-earth and quick-to-laugh personality are another reason to visit Triple Play.
- Click here to read more about our own experiences at Triple Play!