EL PASO, Texas -

     It was a sold-out opening night for Southwest University Park, but are the droves of baseball fans having the desired impact on nearby businesses?

     Many fans coming out of the first game said that opening night at the downtown ballpark was a great event. But for some of the bars and restaurants nearby, while the early afternoon business was encouraging, the turnout after the game was lackluster.

     "We had extra staff on, everything was awesome," said Eric Owen, bar manager at the Garden. "We had a good turnout, and then everyone went off to the game."

     Owen said that while there were plenty of patrons before the game, the expected after-game crowds never came, though a few people still ventured out.     

     "Yeah, I'm going to say around," said one fan exiting the ballpark. "Hit up Pot Au Feu, it's called, the restaurant on Franklin, it's pretty good, and then come down here. Stop by the clubs and stuff, bars.

     The bars and restaurants particularly in the Union Plaza district, were ready for the crowds to come after the game ended.  There were still a few people hanging around, but for the most part, the fans didn't come after the game ended.

     Some El Pasoans after the game said that the day and lateness of the game, going into 13 innings, put a damper on some plans, and they expected that this first weekend with the ballpark would be a lot better.

     "That's a big effect, but do it on a Friday or a Saturday, and it's going to get down," said one fan leaving the stadium.

     Owen at the Garden agrees, and expects business to keep getting better, even as the first games pass.

     "I think we'll still have good business when the novelty of the park wears off, just because it's a reason to draw people down here, you know. We were already drawing people down here before the park, so with the park being there, even if it's not a brand new thing, it's still a reason people come down here and experience downtown, and downtown El Paso. It's a good thing."

     With seven more games to come in this first home stand of Chihuahuas games, there will be plenty more chances for businesses to court fans.
     And there could be a much bigger after-game turnout for this upcoming weekend.