Vision of lively, active downtown slated for test Friday

Is Downtown ready for the masses expect this weekend?

For years, the city of El Paso has worked to have an active, lively, fun downtown. That vision will be put to the test Friday evening when several events will be happening at about the same time.

The Chihuahuas baseball game, which begins at 7 p.m., is expected to draw more than 9,000 people. A block away, the Abraham Chavez Theatre is sold out for the performance of comic Jerry Seinfeld. That's 2,500 people.

The city's first Alfresco Friday outdoor music and dance event is expected to attract more than 1,500 people. Alfresco begins at 5:30, a little earlier than the other events.

The Socorro Independent School District is hosting its teacher of the year ceremony, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Convention Center, with at least 1,000 people confirmed so far, according to officials at Destination El Paso.

That could be at least 14,000 people downtown Friday evening.

"We do anticipate there will be some peak periods so we're encouraging people to make some time and come early and enjoy downtown," said Bryan Crowe, Destination El Paso's general manager.

Ted Marquez with the city's Engineering Department said there are about 9,000 parking spots in the greater downtown area. About half of those are less than a 10-minute walk to the ballpark and the convention center. Most cars carry a family or a group of friends, so the parking should accommodate the 14,000 people expected, said Marquez.

Having thousands of people downtown at once is not unprecedented. The Downtown Street Festival attracts between 12,000 and 15,000 people a day, said Crowe. "This is what this was all about, was developing downtown as a destination and as a place; all the restaurants, bars and shops in the area - encouraging people to come out early."

Marquez said people may have to walk a couple of blocks to get to their destinations. Crowe said El Pasoans are getting used to the idea that the Convention Center isn't the only place to park downtown.  "What's changing about downtown is this idea that there's only one place to go and one place to park. Most events were at the Convention Center, or the Chavez Theatre or the Plaza, and so you think of one central place. As we've expanded the event offerings throughout downtown over the last few years, more and more people are becoming aware that there is this whole inventory of parking downtown."

There was a sizable area downtown encompassing metered parking that went unused during Monday's Chihuahuas sellout game.

"This is what big cities have. They have Friday night spots games and big national performers in one day," said Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor.

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