This flashy new stadium is a proud symbol of the huge economic progress that Mexico has made over the past two decades, part of the same general trend of continental socio-economic integration that was embodied by NAFTA. Just as Texas and southwestern U.S.A. are heavily influenced by Mexican culture, northern Mexico is heavily influenced by U.S. culture, especially the prosperous industrial city of Monterrey. Baseball is generally more popular in northern Mexico, especially in the northwest, near California and Arizone. Attendance at Monterrey Sultanes has stagnated in recent years, though they did manage to draw some big crowds (20,000+) this past summer when local companies gave away free tickets to their workers.
With three main decks, this stadium clearly aspires to major league status, but the decks are rather small in size. After drawing the above diagram, I learned that there are "luxury suites" at ground level, behind the first deck, and behind the second deck; diagram revision pending. Estadio Monterrey also lacks a roof, and is therefore somewhat reminiscent of the old Metropolitan Stadium, on a smaller scale. With shade being very precious in the hot climate of Mexico, this absence is a puzzle. The stadium's capacity could be raised to 30,000 or more by extending the upper decks around the corners or adding more rows to the back of the upper deck. In terms of aesthetics, the view of the mountain peak beyond the center field fence is truly awesome. With a high altitude and relatively cozy dimensions except in center field, it would be considered a slugger's park by U.S. standards. (Compared to other Mexican ballparks, it is more pitcher-friendly.) It is perfectly symmetrical, however, and there are few interesting features. The main difference from most U.S. stadiums is the above-average amount of foul territory toward the foul poles. Except in the corners, most seats are quite close to the playing field.
Major League Baseball first went "south of the border" in August 1996, when the Padres "hosted" the Mets in a three game series. That was near the end of Fernando Valenzuela's career, as he finished in a Padres uniform. In 1999 the Padres played their Opening Day game against the Rockies, and Mexicans were thrilled to see one of their own countrymen, Vinny Castilla, in the role of All Star slugger. In 2003 and 2004, promoters lobbied hard to persuade Major League Baseball to relocate the Montreal Expos to Monterrey. The city's average income level is still far below U.S. standards, however, and it is doubtful that a major league franchise could be sustained for very long. Perhaps in another ten years...
FAN TIPS: Eduardo Sauceda, Bruce Orser, Steven Poppe