It’s been just about a year since my last new stadium visit in Arlington, TX.
What started out as almost constant activity of planning and then taking new trips has sadly ground to a near halt. The reason being, I’m all out of stadiums to visit!
There are plans for future construction of a new football stadium in Buffalo and recently, news was announced of a new planned stadium for the Royals in downtown Kansas City and the Oakland A’s likely relocation to Las Vegas – but those are still a bit off on the horizon.
The other US options to attend games would be a challenge for me since the annual games at Williamsport and Fort Bragg are played in front of a restricted audience and getting tickets to these would be exceptionally difficult without somehow getting a few strings pulled.
Thankfully, MLB is committed to building out its international series.
There are already plans next year for the Dodgers and Padres to play in South Korea and the finishing touches are being put on the plans for games to be played in Paris in 2025.
This year, for the first time ever, there will be MLB games played in Mexico City!
The league had previously played regular-season games in Monterrey in 1996, 1999, 2018 and 2019. Exhibition contests were played in Mexico City in the past but playing games that mattered in the country’s capital was different.
MLB wanted to do so in Mexico City sooner, but the $166 million stadium, which holds 20,000 fans, wasn’t completed until 2019. The facility is home to the Mexican League’s Diablos Rojos, a team owned by the Mexican billionaire Alfredo Harp Helú, also a part owner of the Padres.
The trip started out a little dicey for me. My plan was to fly out late in the afternoon the day before the game so I would have plenty of time to get to the game on Saturday without the stress of clearing immigration and fighting traffic from the airport to the hotel and then to the stadium.
Unfortunately, once I arrived in Dallas for my connecting flight, everything was delayed due to storms in the DFW area. Ultimately my flight was cancelled, and they rebooked us all on an early morning flight.
I finally arrived in Mexico City airport about 2 ½ hours before game time. So much for my plan to avoid stress! Despite the insane Saturday afternoon immigration lines and crippling traffic, I was able to get to my hotel in the Centro District and then over to the stadium just as they were signing the Mexican National Anthem!
The procession from Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium grounds into the ballpark alludes to climbing an ancient Mesoamerican temple. As you approach the grand entrance, you’re confronted with six truncated pyramids cladded in indigenous volcanic rock. Once inside, a ring connects all the seats and functions into one experience with unobstructed views of the field.
The ballpark is visually appealing with decorations that give the vibe of Teotihuacan pyramids and the beautiful stairways. In addition, the overhanging roof over the stands and seat patterns inspired by native Mexican heritage are other features of the stadium.
The scenes in the stands and on the field reflected a spirited baseball culture. The tickets for the games sold out quickly in November. About 20,000 fans attended each game but it sounded like more. The crowd leaned heavily toward the Padres.
Roughly three-quarters of the tickets sold online were purchased in Mexico, according to MLB, while the remaining tickets were purchased in the United States, primarily in California. But walking the stands, it felt like more Padres fans were visiting from the United States and several said they bought their tickets online through secondary-market resellers in Mexico. Probably something I should have thought about doing rather than coughing up over 300 bucks on StubHub!
There was a thunderous roar when the Padres took the field in the top of the first. The fans were armed with cow bells, horns, and assorted noisemakers, some pleasant, some not so much. I was sitting in the upper deck along the left field line. When Juan Soto acknowledged the crowd with a wave, the reaction was as loud as if he just hit a 3-run homer.
The most remarkable things about the stadium (aside from the crowd’s enthusiasm) were the interesting architecture and the food.
Micheladas, Tacos, Aguachile, Tostadas, Burros, Paletas, Nieves and Churros — were sold in abundance. Prices were a fraction of what you’d pay in Stateside ballparks and the quality was amazing! Vendors it seemed were everywhere. I don’t believe at any point in the game that anyone had an empty cup. The level of beer consumption became more and more apparent as the game went on.
A mariachi band played throughout the games, performing a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Legendary luchador Rey Mysterio was in attendance. When they showed him on the video board, the drunken fans erupted loudly.
Mexico City is sits at an elevation of approx. 7,350 feet. That’s over 2,000 feet higher in altitude than my home city of Denver. The size of the left side is 332 feet, and the size of the right area is 332 feet, whereas the size of the center field is 410 feet.
Given the altitude and dimensions of the stadium, it was no surprise how easily balls were flying out of the yard.
Five Padres went deep, including Manny Machado twice, as San Diego outlasted the Giants 16-11. The two teams combined for 11 home runs (two shy of the Major League record set by the D-backs and Phillies in 2019) and 30 total hits.
Hundreds of fans lingered outside the stadium after the final game to send off both teams with cheers and waves.
Things in Mexico City are generally quite a bit less expensive than here in the states, but remarkably so is the cost of taking an Uber. Getting a ride is pretty easy and you can be taken clear across town 10-15 miles away for the US equivalent of about 2 bucks!! That is NOT the case with their radio cabs.
The radio cabs make a living by staking out big events and tourist attractions looking for “gringos”. They tell you the fare will be “whatever is on the meter”. The meters clearly have a special “gringo” setting because once the car is in motion, the numbers on them spin so fast you can’t even see them!
This was a lesson I learned the hard way. The same ride that cost me $2 earlier in an Uber, cost me over $40 in the radio cab! Live and learn.
Mexico City is a pretty fascinating place.
The Centro District has so much incredible history and is a walker’s paradise. The Zócalo, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Catedral Metropolitana and the Templo Mayor are just a few of the great attractions.
An interesting thing I noted was that, despite the population and areas of poverty, I saw very few homeless people, and no one approached me for money. Also, there are people employed who are constantly cleaning the streets. These are two things that I cannot say about Denver.
The neighborhoods in this expansive city are incredibly diverse. There is a great deal of poverty in the city but also a great deal of wealth and opulence. The Polanco neighborhood is reminiscent of Beverly Hills with the high-end stores and restaurants and expensive homes.
The Coyoacán neighborhood is more laid back and casual with beautiful parks and great places to eat.
The city has some amazing places to eat but I would play it safe and steer clear of street food (although some claim that is the best food in the city). There are over 15,000 Taqueria’s throughout Mexico City.
Also be mindful of public transportation. Although it’s not common for any serious crimes to happen, pickpockets are everywhere, so keep your wallet in your teeth.
Also avoid the main bus station bathroom. It’s been two weeks since my visit and I still have nightmares about that smell!
The highlight of my visit may have been a trip to the ancient Aztec temples of Teotihuacan. It was pretty fascinating to see the remains of what was once the largest settlement in all of North America.
One final tip if you plan to travel there is to try and learn some Spanish before you go. It helped me immeasurably. For such a large city that is not far from the US, it was amazing how many people couldn’t speak a single word of English.
My next roadtrip is in July to Seattle for the 2023 All Star Game.
Fans – A+ – By far the most energetic and enthusiastic fans I’ve ever attended a game with.
Features –B – Cool architectural design features, but none of the unique points of interest found in most of the MLB Stadiums.
Location – D – Pretty far from Centro in a kind of industrial, dirty area. Would not want to be near there at night!
Food – A+ – Maybe the best I’ve ever had a a ballpark. Great variety, quality and price.
Game – A – A fun slugfest. Really kept the fans energized all game.
Overall Experience –A – Unique, exciting and fun.