Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No new Mazatlan ballpark; Teodoro Mariscal to be remodeled

Mazatlan mayor Fernando Pucheta Sanchez (center)
Now that halting attempts to have a brand-new ballpark built for Mazatlan have been abandoned, a full renovation of 55-year-old Estadio Teodoro Mariscal has gone from Plan B status to reality.  Between the resident Venados Mexican Pacific League franchise and both state and local governments, about 308 million pesos (or approximately $17,000,000US) has been earmarked for the project.

A ceremony invoving team and government officials was held Friday at the Teodoro Mariscal site.  According to a City of Mazatlan press release, mayor Fernando Pucheta Sanchez told the assembled group, "I appreciate everyone present for the enthusiasm they show in the works being carried out in the municipality, works that go within a framework of respect and legality, works that I don't mind paying the cost that means the discomfort they represent today, but tomorrow they'll be the pride of all Mazatlecos."  Pucheta may have been referencing alleged under-the-radar dealings involving politicians in the contruction of some of the many new MexPac ballparks that have popped up this decade.

While the Teodoro Mariscal renovation will not make the 15,000-seat facility a "new" ballpark, per se, it's projected to bring the facility more in line with its counterparts in places like Culiacan, Hermosillo and Obregon for amenities and revenue-producing potential.  Once one of Mexico's top ballparks, Mariscal has shown its age the past several winters and when talks were held weeks ago about where in Mexico to relocate next February's Caribbean Series from strife-torn Venezuela, the five-time CS host was not even considered.  The event went to Guadalajara instead.

Estadio Teodoro Mariscal was opened April 26, 1962, eighteen months after construction began on plans drawn up by architect Quirino Ordaz Luna.  The ballpark's location was regarded as somewhat remote at the time but as Mazatlan has filled in and added a Zona Dorado tourist enclave to the north, Teodoro Mariscal is now considered fairly central.  The scuttled plans for a new ballpark placed that proposed facility to the north of the Zona Dorado near the ocean, which would've made it a chore for some Mazeltecos to make it to a Venados game.  Instead, baseball will continued to be played where it's been for over five decades.

According to Puro Beisbol columnist Juan Angel Avila, the ballpark renovations (which will be performed in three stages) will bring about a Venados Hall of Fame, new locker rooms, a gym for player workouts, a medical/rehab room, an area for live musical performances and a children's play area.  Avila adds his admiration that, unlike similar projects elsewhere, the Mazatlan redo appears to be less about the talk and more about the action, and that work is already getting underway.

Beside the five Caribbean Series between 1978 and 2005, Teodoro Mariscal has been the scene of 15 MexPac championship series (the Venados have won nine LMP pennants) and All-Star Games in 1965 and 1983.  Mazatlan has historically been one of the better-drawing teams in the winterball circuit, but that was not the case last season.  The Deer drew a total of 198,589 fans to 34 home dates in the 2016-17 season for an LMP-low average of 5,851 per opening during a regular season during which nearly 10,000 aficionados clicked the turnstiles leaguewide on a nightly basis.

The renovations in Mazatlan will leave just Los Mochis and Navojoa among the eight MexPac franchise playing in ballparks that have not been at least renovated in the past decade.  The Caneros play at 11,000-seat Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada (erected 1947) while the Mayos call 11,500-seat Estadio Manuel "Ciclon" Echeverria (1970) home.  Talks have been held in both LMP sites regarding ballpark renovations or replacement, but nothing firm has been agreed to in either city.

While nobody is saying anything right now, it's fairly common knowledge that brothers Juan Jose and Erick Arellano (Mazatlan natives who own both the Yucatan Leones and Union Laguna Vaqueros of the Mexican League) have coveted their hometown as a potential LMB franchise site.  The Arellanos reportedly were proponents of the new ballpark as a condition for bringing a Liga team to the Pearl of the Pacific, but it's not known whether they would still pursue a team to play in the new and improved Teodoro Mariscal instead.  An anticipated offseason scheduling turf war between the two leagues will hinder any LMB attempts to place teams in MexPac territory in any regard.