I’ve been trying to come up with a word to describe El Paso’s new Downtown baseball stadium.

I thought of the words “beautiful” and “gorgeous” and even “awesome,” but I finally decided on “breathtaking.”

That’s because it literally took my breath away when I saw it for the first time during a personally guided tour last week.

And I think it will do the same to you when you attend Monday’s first home game between the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Fresno Grizzlies.

THE FACILITY’S name is Southwest University Park, but by any name it’s an architectural marvel. To think that such a magnificent structure could be built in such a small amount of space is all but incredible.

I posed that to my tour guide, Peter Svarzbein of Multimedia Artist-Visual Solutions, who has been hired to make a documentary and a book about the stadium.

He pointed out that the solution to the space problem was just simply to go more vertical than most stadiums.

The seats are a bit higher than say, at Cohen Stadium or other stadiums, so you’ll have a less obstructed view of the action wherever you sit.

By the way, the stadium is being built by a joint venture of C.F. Jordan Construction, the local company, and Hunt Construction Group, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., which has built 10 of the 15 Major League Baseball stadiums since 2000.

It’s not connected to El Paso’s Hunt Companies.

AND WHAT a view from our new stadium. Not only is it a kaleidoscope of color, but also with the city and the mountains right in front of you you’ll think you’re in heaven – especially if you’re a baseball fan.

The field itself is a beauty what with the grass so green and so immaculate it almost glimmers.

And there are special touches to the structure that will make you smile. For instance, part of the wall in left field was painted blue to signify our Rio Grande. And some of the steel arches inside are like the ones at Union Depot, which sits nearby.

And there’s the grassy area in left centerfield where fans can sit and have fun and picnic while they watch the teams play.

They’re little things but they all add up to a heartwarming touch.

I TALKED to some members of the Hunt construction crew. They seemed proud of their work.

“Look at what we’ve done,” project safety manager Ben Ordonez said. “After tearing down things, we had a ton of concrete and other stuff we had to haul out of here. Then we had to start from scratch and start building the stadium – and we did all that in less than a year.”

He added that at one time or another, 3,000 construction workers were employed and that on many days, 500 or more workers were on hand at one time.

THE TOTAL cost of the stadium will be around $72 million, most of it to be paid by you and me, the taxpayers. The rest will be picked up by MountainStar Sports Group.

Getting to the where we are now was a long and sometimes painful process. There was much opposition to the project. Why build it Downtown where you have to demolish existing buildings? After all, some said, El Paso already had a perfectly fine Cohen Stadium.

It was also pointed out that parking will be a big problem. And then there was the cost.

ALL TRUE and valid points, but MountainStar Sports Group and other backers held their ground.

They pointed out the stadium will benefit all El Pasoans, will revitalize surrounding businesses and will provide a facility that will be family friendly.

That is true, too.

Pete Svarzbein says that once the umpire calls out “Play ball!” on Monday, the problems will begin to fade away and fans will appreciate what we have now.

Also true.

After all, having a Triple-A baseball team and such a grand new stadium is something that can make all El Pasoans proud.


Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Call (915) 584-0626, email rayf358@yahoo.com or visit www.raysanchezbooks.com.