El Paso, Texas, is home to arguably the best of the 244 Minor League Baseball teams in the United States. The statement applies on and off the field. The Chihuahuas are the reigning Pacific Coast League champs with an attendance of 1.5 million over three seasons.
In 2016, the team was one of the 14 recipients of the inaugural Esurance Home Field Advantage Award. The award recognized the communities who best supported their hometown Minor League Baseball team.
It was quite an honor for Chihuahuas Vice President and General Manager Brad Taylor.
“We’re not about wins and losses,” says Taylor. “We have no control over that being a feeder system for the Padres. But we do control the in-game experience—with a safe environment, family focus, clean bathrooms and fun promotions at each of our 71 home games.”
It’s hard to believe the team’s home was not always El Paso. Escondido, California, and Tucson, Arizona, failed to build a new ballpark. El Paso stepped up and built Southwest University Park, which opened in 2014 on the site of old City Hall.
The team hired the world’s top sports architecture design firm, Populous, to make the most of a cramped (5.5 acres) footprint.
“The site is the smallest we’ve done for Triple-A,” says Populous architect Mike Sabatini, a senior project designer for the New York Mets’ Citi Field. “But it allowed us to create a uniqueness, including designing an asymmetrical bowl where we needed to stack seats and suites vertically instead of horizontally.”
Baseball Digest named it best ballpark in 2014, and it is still earning raves. It was recently named host of the 2019 All-Star Game between the Pacific Coast League and International League.