Chronological Tour: Stop 373

El Paso Baseball Moves Downtown

Approaching Southwest University Park from Durango Street (crossing the Union Pacific tracks), Jul-2014.

The seating bowl, as seen from the upper deck on the first-base side.

The park looks out on the Scottish Rite temple as well as buildings in right field that are part of the stadium.

Quick Facts: Rating: 4 baseballs
For over twenty years, Cohen Field on the northeast side of El Paso, near Fort Bliss, was the city’s baseball home. It was a nice park, having been built in 1990 and profiled in a National Geographic article that summer. Unfortunately, it was, well, so 1990 and thus no longer suitable for attracting a high-level affiliated team.

Meanwhile, the Tucson Padres, who were already nomads after having been evicted from soccer-mad Portland, Ore., were scrambling for a place to play. Tucson, a former spring training site, was workable but not a long-term solution. The club attempted to relocate to Escondido, Calif., a San Diego suburb, but a deal to build a new ballpark there fell through.

Finally, the city fathers in El Paso came up with the idea of joining the ongoing trend of building new ballparks downtown. But where? Well, El Paso already had a convention center and arena next to their city hall. So they made the radical decision to tear down city hall, scattering municipal offices around several existing office buildings, and put up the ballpark in that lot. After a slight delay, Southwest University Park (the naming rights belong to a for-profit vocational and technical college with no athletic programs) opened at the end of April 2014.

Area fans were incensed at the choice of team nickname. While most fans wanted the Diablos name maintained (and some pushed for the Sun Kings, who played at the long-gone Dudley Field), the club adopted the name Chihuahuas and created a logo and mascot to go along with the identity. The name actually fits, as El Paso is a twin city with Juárez, the largest city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua (twice the size of El Paso itself). The Rio Grande, which separates the cities and countries, is about ten blocks south of the park.

Getting to the Game

The park is very close to I-10, at exit 19 for downtown. Interestingly, the park is very difficult to see from the westbound lanes, but it is quite easy to identify for eastbound travelers. It is also two blocks west of Mesa Street, which runs down to a border crossing.

The Union Pacific tracks run behind the first-base side, but there is no commuter service on that line. However, Sun Metro, the city’s bus service, runs frequent shuttle buses to the park from many parts of town. At the end of the game I attended, buses were queued up on nearby streets to accept return passengers.

Motorists can park in nearby paid lots, or they can find on-street parking for free on the streets to the southwest of the park or just across the I-10 freeway.

I was a bit disappointed in the limited number of access and egress points, although one side of the park is off limits due to the train tracks.

Watching the Game

As with most modern parks, the views from the seats are generally ideal. There are fewer seats along the first-base side owing to the train tracks; since El Paso is at a moderate altitude, the designers took care not to shrink the field dimensions in order to accommodate more seating.

It is possible to walk around the concourse and find places to stand and watch the game, including from two buildings erected down the right-field line. Each building has club seating; the base of one includes reserved tables, while the base of the other features the visiting bullpen (fans walk behind the bullpen in their tour around the concourse). The buildings are reminiscent of the ones that were left in place when Petco Park in San Diego was built.

The scoreboard is operated proficiently; the score is generally displayed somewhere at all times. However, the main board has very limited information about lineups, etc., compared to most Triple-A ballparks. I did not see a whiteboard for the lineup, although I may have missed it. The announcer is also not perfect at announcing fielding changes in mid-game.

Enjoying the Game

The almost mandatory kids’ play area is in left center field. Most of the amusements are set below fence level so as not to be terribly intrusive for spectators.

Concession prices are a bit high, but you get what you pay for. The park offers many west Texas favorites, as well as unusual items such as the one I sampled, the largest turkey leg I’ve had at a ballpark.

Game # Date League Level Result
1320 Fri 25-Jul-2014 Pacific Coast AAA Fresno 9, EL PASO 7
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This page updated 28-Jul-2014