One year ago, the entire 2020 El Paso Chihuahuas baseball season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This weekend, attendance at Southwest University Park will be back at 100% capacity as the Sun City has seen a declining number of coronavirus cases over the last few months.
When the Chihuahuas and Locomotive FC both began hosting games last month, capacity started at 70% with the face coverings policy in effect.
Once the CDC updated their guidelines on masks on May 13, MountainStar Sports Group revised its requirements. Now, fans that have been vaccinated no longer have to wear face coverings in the ballpark. MountainStar still recommends that people who have not been vaccinated continue to wear masks during baseball games and soccer matches.
However, this will be done on the honor system, since fans won’t be asked for proof of vaccinations.
“The El Paso region has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 and fans of both teams continue to be very cooperative and respectful of the health and safety protocols put in place at Southwest University Park,” MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford said in a statement.
“We are pleased to join many teams and venues across the state and country which are safely returning to full capacity and to welcome back the amazing fans of both the Chihuahuas and Locomotive.”
As of Wednesday, May 26, El Paso had an estimated 1,133 active cases of COVID-19. The city reported only one new positive case on Monday, May 24 – the lowest number in well over a year.
UTEP athletics has not seen a positive COVID case since March, another indication that the community is doing its part to keep the virus under control as we enter the hot summer months.
The Chihuahuas and Locomotive FC are the first local teams to return to full capacity for their sporting events, but I expect many other outdoor venues to follow their lead. By September, UTEP football should be at 100% capacity and indoor sports could see their attendance figures return to normal by year’s end.
Despite the return to normalcy, there are plenty of fans who are not ready to get rid of their face coverings when they go to the ballpark to watch a live sporting event. Some could have weakened immune systems, while others have young children. Still, others do not yet feel comfortable being around large crowds without a mask.
Because of reasons like these, I still expect to see some fans stay masked up during games, even if it is no longer required.
I took my family to Southwest University Park on Sunday, May 16 to watch the Chihuahuas play the Isotopes. I enjoyed being back at the ballpark for the first time in well over a year.
The food was good, the beers were cold, and the team played great on the field. We cannot wait to return for another Chihuahuas game or Locomotive FC match.
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.