For 90 years, professional baseball teams in El Paso, Texas called two stadiums home. That all changed this week when the San Diego Padres Triple-A club, the El Paso Chihuahuas, cut the ribbon on Southwest University Park, making it the third professional park for baseball rooters along the Rio Grande.
With architecture that nods to the historic El Paso Union Depot, SU Park combines a historical flare of old Dudley Field, the home for El Paso baseball from 1924 to 1989, with the modern functionality of Cohen Stadium, the 23 year old park that last played host to an affiliated El Paso squad in 2004.
Check out photos of the brand new Southwest University Park.
At a cost of 72 million dollars, 12x more than what it cost to build Cohen back in 1990, SU Park can hold 9500 people and boasts a 46,000 square foot concourse that wraps all the way around the park. There are all the state of the art amenities you would expect from a ballpark at Triple-A, including 23 luxury suites, 500 club seats and an LED and HD Video board.
As the UT’s John Maffei pointed out, the new park shows a commitment to minor league baseball not seen from other potential homes for a Padres affiliate bandied about in the last 5 years.
The Chihuhahas dropped their first four games at their new home this week, but won the first two of a weekend series against Sacramento to finally get in the win column for SU Park. In an eventual 2-1 loss to Fresno on 4/28, former Major Leaguer Jeff Francoeur wasted no time in christening the new park, lashing a double in the bottom of the first to mark the initial base hit at SU Park. Two innings later, Travis Buck emblazoned himself in the ballpark’s history driving in the first run with the first home run. 9,245 fans packed the park that day to see the Chihuahas new home.
As for the fan experience, the 360 degree concourse is packed with that all important factor: great food.
The El Paso Times detailed the wide range of options SU Park has for the baseball fan. From the traditional ball park dogs and burgers and nachos, to the Rio Grrrrrrande Grille with their Huevos Ranchero Burger or Green Chile Bacon Cheeseburger, there are tastes for the traditional and the bold.
Alligator alley features a Hummus Sampler and Frito Pie, Chico’s is the place to go for Cheesesteaks and Leo’s at the Ballpark will get you your fill of TexMex cuisine with shredded beef or carnitas nachos and burritos. Top it off with one of the abundant funnel cakes or churros and a cold one from Beers of the World.
As Maffai pointed out, the Padres brass face the same challenge as other organizations with teams in the PCL South when it comes to evaluating talent at altitude. But no matter how the baseball numbers seem to skew from afar, baseball fans in El Paso are delighted to have a state of the art home for baseball’s next chapter along the border.