More than a World-Class Stadium

DSC_8345The new baseball stadium for our nine-time-series-champion Venados is advertised to be the best in all of México, and for once those superlative claims appear true. The architecture is stunning, the remodel retains iconic elements of the historic stadium around which it is built (weird-shaped historic columns, for example) and it increases seating to 16,000. We will now have:

  • 38 luxurious suites with indoor, air-conditioned seating as well as outdoor seating for 15 people.
  • 550 palcosor box seats, and a private VIP entrance and bar for them and the suites.
  • Two restaurants—El Muchacho Alegre and La Cantinetta.
  • Several food concessions including Water’s Edge and Surf’s Up.
  • Large bathrooms for both genders on each level!!
  • A seating area where vendors will speak English, to make this incredible cultural experience easier and more enjoyable for tourists and “polar bears” (“snow birds” as translated from Spanish).
  • A retro-sounding Venados Booster Club from which you can buy tickets in English.
  • Much improved locker rooms/clubhouse, umpire and training rooms and physical therapy facilities.
  • A media facility up top.
  • Pacífico beer is still a huge sponsor of the Venados, so Estadio Teodoro Mariscalcontinues the tradition as a Pacífico-only venue.

The stadium will glisten as an anchor to the remodeled Parque Central. It is envisioned to host not only the baseball season but other cultural and musical events, including, of course, our traditional and world class Carnavál coronations. The views from the stadium, both inside—of the field, and outwards—of the city, are fantastic! The only glaring problem is that they still have not solved the parking. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The 2018-19 baseball season opened on Sunday October 14, and I was ready with my camera for what I was confident would be a spectacular fireworks show. My gut instinct proved true: these were fireworks as Mazatlán has never before seen over a stadium! They were flawlessly choreographed to music by Mazatlán’s own Arte Pirotecnia, and the show mesmerized everyone who saw it. The only issue photographically was that so many fireworks went off at once that it was difficult to capture the spectacle AND not burn out the photo!

Thanks to these photos I met Isaac Urquijo, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Venados, with whom I recently toured the new stadium. Isaac is a young mazatleco who left town to obtain his degree, going on to work for large multinationals around the country. Lucky for us, after 11 years out of town he was recruited a year ago to return for his dream job. Isaac is a fireball of energy and ideas with degrees in both accounting and marketing, and he speaks excellent English.

During our tour I very much enjoyed watching one of those gorgeous white steel arches go up and get welded in. Isaac told me that when the first arch was placed, two construction workers hung from it in order to weld it on! How I would have loved to get a photo of that! I was fascinated with the guts of these welders, dangling as they do high above ground.

The Presidential Suite is also most impressive. It has a kitchen and bar, dining table and chairs, and living room with flat screen, plus outdoor seating. The normal suites seem like a good deal to me. They cost 240,000 pesos for the season and seat 15 people. Palco or box seats are 10,400 for the season.

Once all the arches are up, the covers will be put in place. With the covers in place, much needed shade will be provided to box seats and others as well. Below is a video of the full design. Note that there have been many changes since the initial plans, including that there will be no water feature at the main entrance.

Governor Quirino’s father was in office when the original stadium was built, so he has had a special interest in seeing this remodel through. The stadium is owned by the municipality of Mazatlán, and reconstruction was financed primarily with state funds in the amount of 416 million pesos. The current remodel began on July 14, 2017. It was designed by Raúl Peña, an architect in Mexico City, and is being built by Dynfra. based in Guadalajara. This is the third stadium they’ve built for the league, after Hermosillo and Culiacán, and after watching it every day and hearing its progress all night every night, their work ethic is amazing.

The Venados’ concession for the stadium was renewed in September of this year through 2045, for an investment of 80 million pesos and 8% of the proceeds from each game. Isaac tells me that the official inauguration of the new stadium is planned for the first part of December.

The entire Venados organization, or, rather, it’s parent company, Espectáculos Costa del Pacífico—owned by the Toledo family (95%) and Ismael Barros (5%)—is on fire these days. The Venados in recent memory have had a leadership triumvirate: Ismael Barros, President; Chino Valdéz, sports manager, and Juan José Pacho, team manager. Under their leadership the Venados twice won the Caribbean Series, in 2005 and again in 2016. Barros left, however, to assume the position of city treasurer, and the Venados organization in January 2017 named a new President: 35-year old José Antonio Toledo Pinto. He is the youngest President of a Mexican baseball team, and his energy and enthusiasm seem to be transforming the entire organization. City administration ends the 31st of this month, October 2018. I am told José Antonio will remain in place, but we’ll see.

While in season the Venados organization employs 400 people, normally during the off-season they’ve had 20. This year they’ve increased that number to 80. They’ve hired an office full of young and enthusiastic creative staff who released a brand-new, hotly-debated Venados logo. The organization has opened five new Venados stores (increasing the number from three to eight) and is merchandising a stylish clothing line. They are adding a public gym (Rock Gym), a mini market, a barbershop and three Starbucks outlets to the stadium, in addition to other businesses. There are long-term plans to build a business hotel behind the big screen. The hotel would house out-of-town players in season and serve business travelers the rest of the year.

The Venados are aiming to become a much more inclusive, accessible organization, out of gratitude to their fans’ enthusiasm. Isaac told me that this year 40 pesos gets you a bleacher seat and a beer, plus full access to walk around the entire stadium. What a deal! With dancers, people on stilts and live music playing in the hallways as well as in the stadium, our local baseball games are a terrific, family-oriented party.

There are of course many aficionados who know the roster and focus on the game, but we also have a huge group of fans who attend for the party: to drink beer, listen to music, visit with friends, and, oh yes, watch a few plays. It’s quite amusing if you follow the Venados on social media. They have asked fans, “how many outs are in an inning?” and a fan answered “five;” or “how many players are on the field?” with a reply of “four.” But they do know the price of beer and all the special promotions! A professional game here is a different animal than a Major League game up north, more affordable, more of a full sensory experience, more like a Minor League game, perhaps. Isaac says he wants it to be like “Disneyland with a beer.”

The Venados don’t own players, for example; they borrow them from the Mexican summer leagues and the Major Leagues up north. Thus, there is a lot of fluidity on the roster from one season to the next. This season, however, the Venados have recruited several young, healthy, talented players who they hope to retain for a good five to ten years, to provide continuity for the crowd and the franchise. The season here is three months long, four if we go to the playoffs. Since there are twelve months in a year, the organization looks to find additional uses for this gorgeous new stadium.

Most interesting to me, they are branching out from baseball to become a true sporting franchise. They purchased a professional basketball team back in 2014 (Los Nauticos) that have played in the Multiple-use Center (Centro de Usos Multiples or CUM) since 2016—that gorgeous new sports arena in the marina that no one really uses. The Venados also support volleyball, boxing, and of course our internationally recognized annual marathon and triathlon. Their goal, as Isaac told me, is to support local athletes and entertain the local community.

They run academies or training camps for kids in the various sports. According to Isaac, a young baseball player here in Mazatlán is “owned” by the league in which he plays; the league controls contract negotiations and makes decisions if one of their players is recruited professionally. In fact, the control over the kids and their future earnings has been such an issue, that Major League Baseball recently took action and has banned MLB teams from recruiting from the Mexican League (LMB).

The Venados’ goal is to help players develop skill and experience while staying free agents. The same is true for boxing. The baseball academiaruns Mondays-Fridays, 4-8 pm ten months of the year; the 200 kids who are enrolled are coached by the Venados’ manager himself, Juan José Pacho. The academias are not profit centers but, rather, social service endeavors, though those attending do pay nominal fees. Isaac reports that there are similar plans for academías of boxing, basketball and volleyball. They are even planning to hold a golf tournament this December at Marina Mazatlán; Venados players and managers will play alongside the experienced golfers.

I was curious about how a pro baseball team here makes its money. Isaac told me that 55% of its income is from sponsors, 35% from box office and season ticket holders (Socios Venados), and beer income makes up the rest. If they sell 3000 tickets for a game with sponsorships in place they break even, and this season—other than the hugely attended inauguration—they’ve averaged 6500 people per game. In-season salaries total 6 million pesos/month.

The Venados organization engages in quite a bit of social outreach. They support the Red Cross and give away season tickets to families in need. You may have heard about the Venados Booster Club, with its aim to act as liaison with foreign visitors and help two local charities: Refugio Mazatlán and Amigos de los Animales. Simon Lynds helped the organization conduct a survey, and they found that many foreigners complain about dirty bathrooms and say they don’t speak Spanish so have a hard time buying tickets. The bathroom situation will be hugely improved with the new stadium, and the English-speaking section and Booster Club will remedy the English-language concerns. On November 24th they are planning a special invitational event for Booster Club members, with the charities and some franchise players.

Who was Teodoro Mariscal, the namesake of the stadium? He was a Mazatlecan businessman who campaigned long and hard for a new baseball stadium here in the 1940s. Our original stadium had been destroyed, and he assumed leadership of the “Committee for a Stadium in Mazatlán. When our current stadium was dedicated for the 1962-63 season, it was decided to name the space in his honor. The stadium remained largely unchanged over the decades, though it was modified several times, most thoroughly in 2000.

You may be wondering about our favorite Venados event of the year, Banda Baseball. This is an annual charity fundraiser, in which popular banda members play one another. Greg and I absolutely love it, and it hasn’t taken place this year due to the stadium reconstruction. Isaac assured me the season would not end without doing it. Fingers crossed…

You can buy your tickets online if you wish. Wednesday night, the 31st, they are urging the crowd to dress in Halloween costume. There is also a Venados app for your phone. You can watch the games live online, too. But, hey, what fun is that? The thrill is experiencing the cacophony of the crowd. A Venados baseball game has so much going on you don’t know where to look first!

NBA Exhibition Game in Mazatlán/Baloncesto NBA

The NBA exhibition game held on October 6, 2011 at the Lobodome – University of Durango was a great experience. The three of us went along with Danny’s good friend, Raúl.

The all-day investment to get tickets paid off as we ended up with floor level seats three rows back and just about under the basket.

If you look closely at this picture, I have circled our seats – left side of the far side basket, at the top of the picture.

Najera, an NBA player who we believe is from Chihuahua, seemed to have a joy-filled evening welcoming his buddies to his home country. He shot both the first and the last baskets of the evening. I tried to talk to him, but I think he looked right over my head – damn I’m short compared to these guys.

The players were really nice to the kids in the crowd. Here is a video of a slam dunk!

Video of a dunk:

Tip Off!


This drum troop was standing outside getting people excited as we entered the school. I don’t think they were official.

In the central courtyard of University of Durango they had a big-screen set up, so that those without tickets could still watch the game.

The event was MUCH better organized (at least upon entry) than the last LoboDome event we attended.

Third row, courtside, under the basket = happy jovenes.

Small venue, clear view, happy night.

The guys tried out the floor for themselves prior to the game. It met with their approval. 🙂

Balls are ready to go for warm up.

And the first player out for warm up is Najera.


“Sure, kid, nice to meet you. Your English is really good!” If we brought a ball or a shirt or something, the players were signing everything.

Come on, come on! 🙂

Playing with a boy from the audience. This kid had game.

The crowd in the upper deck.

Governor Malova greeting the crowd.

Video of the pre-game excitement, leading up to the players coming in:

Players enter the gym:

Free-throw sequence:

Sequence of four: Look

Shoot

Block

Score

We were definitely right in the midst of the action

“Astros,” a local school dance and cheer team, performed at half time.

Sequence of 4: Get the ball

Float in the air with the ball

Decide to slam it

And score

The boys got all the freebies. Now what do they do with them?

The bench. Marion was definitely Dianne’s personal fave.

The Lobo mascot, and some clam?

The Coppel stork? A CULTURA mascot? I thought the stork was from Mega – who knows!

Oh yeah!

Danny’s friend Iván told him they are working on some public camping areas! Awesome news! He also said the state wants to do this event again next year with better players – bring it on!

“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”

“I told you I had it!!!”

With less than one minute to go, there is suddenly a very dramatic push and fall. Which of course resulted in a tied score and overtime. How coincidentally lucky for all of us. 😀 Good showmanship.


And, the final shots of the game:

Final score – think about it – four 10 minute periods and one three minute overtime. You got it. No defense – it was a terrific offensive exhibition – these guys got real talent and it was a lot of fun to watch 334 points get scored in 43 minutes (almost 8 per minute).
Confetti!!!
The exit from an event at the LoboDome is never easy… Huge crowd for such a narrow exit, don’t you think?

Other stuff: A video of the warm-up

And a video of the cheerleaders lifting El Lobo.

Playing around and having fun!
Dianne was really excited to see the big boys play
Good friends going on four years – nice to see two nice young men.
For a video news report of this event, click here.
This is the second part of a two part blog entry – for the first part, click here.