The El Paso Chihuahuas opening homestand at its new ballpark has been moved from April 11 to April 28, the team's owners announced early Friday morning.
“While there was a possibility that the home opener could be played on April 11th, we want to ensure we can offer the quality ballpark experience that El Paso deserves and that we are ready for all aspects of family-friendly fun,” said Alan Ledford, President of MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahuas will play their April 11–14 games against the Reno Aces in Tucson.
Back in September, the Chihuahuas signed a one-month contract to play at Keno Stadium in Tucson if their new ballpark is not ready by the scheduled April 11 opening date.
For the Tucson stand El Paso's team will wear a uniform that says "Chihuahuas" on the front or features the Chihuahua swinging a bone like a baseball bat.
Cohen Stadium in Northeast El Paso will not be used to host the April 11-14 games because it does not meet Minor League Baseball standards. Another reason Cohen Stadium won't be used is because the Chihuahuas did not want to put any doubt in El Pasoans' minds that the Downtown ballpark would be the true home of the team if they played any games at Cohen.
Why Home Opener Moved Dates
The goal was to meet the April 11 home opener but the contract between the City of El Paso and the construction companies states the ballpark doesn't have to be "substantially completed" until on or before April 28.
Construction penalties won't kick in until April 28.
Earlier this week it was announced that construction on the El Paso ballpark would soon be happening around the clock.
"Our construction team has been working around the clock to ensure the readiness of the ballpark.The team has made the call now for purposes of being able to organize and market games, as well as wanting certainty in terms of the level of readiness to host a great opening," El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson said in a statement. "This was a cautious decision on their part and we have been collaborating and working closely throughout the project to get to this point. We will have a full season of professional Baseball in 2014 and the team wants to ensure the first game is about as perfect as possible, as it sets the tone for the rest of the season and going forward. "
Ledford said that the adjustment of the home opening date will allow construction crews the critical time required to prepare the ballpark for “a great experience” on April 28.
Public safety components, concession spaces, and state-of-the-art amenities will be finalized during this time, Ledford said.
“We have one chance to do opening day right and we owe it to the community to make sure that first impression of every detail in the ballpark is unforgettable,” added Ledford. This is as much about the whole ballpark experience as it is about playing baseball. April 28th will be worth the wait.”
Hints of Opening Homestand Delay
In early January, Deputy City Manager Bill Studer, who is overseeing the ballpark construction, said it would be ready in April.
"We'd love to (have it finished by April 11th), but we're talking about four games there versus the rest of their games starting April 28th," Studer told ABC-7 in early January. "So we'll just have to see how that goes."
Studer said in early January that there's a chance the first homestand will have to be played in Tucson.
"There's a chance of a lot of things, but I don't want to speculate on it," Studer said. "We've committed to having baseball played in April and we believe we're on schedule to do that."
Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor told ABC-7 in early January that despite the conflicting dates that he was still confident the Chihuahuas will open a substantially-completed ballpark on April 11.
ABOUT THE BALLPARK
- $74 million stadium facility
- Located in the center of downtown
- 23 Luxury Suites, including Party Suites
- Two event buildings
- Exclusive Club Seating
- State of the art LED & HD Video Board
- Fixed seats and lawn seating
- Kids' Zone
- Ovations Catering