The famous phrase “If you build it, they will come” has been proven true with the construction of El Paso’s Southwest University Park. Not only have fans flocked to the new home of the Triple-A baseball El Paso Chihuahuas since it opened on April 28, but the 7,500-seat ballpark also is attracting businesses to the area and helping spur general downtown redevelopment.
“From the moment the ballpark was announced, the level of commercial real estate activity increased downtown,” says Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Chihuahuas. “We’re starting to see new businesses. We’re starting to see buildings being redeveloped and remodeled.
“After our first weekday day game, I went by a restaurant in the downtown entertainment district that has an outdoor seating area, and it was packed. My guess is that usually doesn’t happen on a Wednesday afternoon. That’s the kind of activity and excitement we were hoping to create with this ballpark, and now we’re seeing it come to life.”
“El Paso’s Ballpark”
The ballpark was built on a snug site of approximately 5 ½ acres. But while it maintains an intimate feel, it also is open on three sides, providing fans with gorgeous views of the downtown skyline, nearby Franklin Mountain, and the iconic star on the side of the mountain that is illuminated every night.
“We wanted people to be able to take a picture of the ballpark, and whoever looks at it would immediately know that this is El Paso’s ballpark,” says Alan Shubert, project engineer for the construction of Southwest University Park. “It’s built like the old ballparks, like Fenway and Wrigley. Every seat is fantastic. You’re really close to the field. Everybody in this ballpark has a chance to catch a foul ball.”
And since baseball is a leisurely paced game, there is plenty for people to do other than just watch the action on the field. There is a Kids Zone for families, party decks and bars for adults, luxury suites, a concourse that circles the facility and, of course, plenty of food options.
“There are multiple different experiences to be had as a fan,” Ledford says. “The discovery process is going to be ongoing for people in this ballpark, and that’s going to provide another reason for people to come back time and again.”
Bringing Downtown to Life
The $74 million ballpark is part of a $473 million quality-of-life bond measure that local voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012. The package consists of 85 projects throughout the city, including the renovation of San Jacinto Plaza Park and the addition of an interactive digital wall outside the El Paso History Museum, the first of its kind in the nation. There also are plans for a new multipurpose arena, children’s museum and Hispanic cultural center.
“There’s just a lot more excitement downtown, and this ballpark is a big part of that,” says Shubert, who has lived in El Paso for more than 15 years. “I see a lot of tenant spaces being filled. This ballpark has gotten people’s interest, and it’s going to do great things for El Paso.”