WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: 2009
Much like the American multi-sport "cookie-cutter" stadiums of the 1960s and 1970s, Foro Sol Stadium (or just Foro Sol) is an awkward fit for baseball. Unlike that class of stadiums, however, this was an ad hoc improvisation, i.e., it was not planned. Foro Sol was built in 1993 primarily as a venue for concerts, and was converted to baseball use in 2000, when the Red Devils and Capital Tigers began playing here. For a single-deck stadium of such large size, this one has an unusually steep pitch. Unlike just about any other baseball stadium, it has a sharp 90-degree corner behind home plate, so catchers never know which way a wild pitch will end up bouncing. The dugouts are not really dugouts, but are at ground level beneath the grandstand, the front row of which is about ten feet above the ground. (A few other ballparks Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America are like that.) Because of the odd angle of the grandstand, there is a large empty space along the left field line, which is used as a picnic area. There is also a big gap in the grandstand near third base, for some unknown reason. The roof covers most of the grandstand surrounding the infield, and it seems to be supported by a combination of steel beams toward the rear and tension rods toward the front. It looks a little flimsy to me. Both in form and function, it is truly an "anomalous" stadium.
Foro Sol is located in southeastern Mexico City, a couple miles south of the airport. It was built in the middle of an automobile racetrack oval, as the owner figured he needed to make profitable use of all that precious urban land in the middle. The grandstand just beyond center field (a corner of which is visible in the diagram) actually points in the opposite direction, toward the racetrack. The stadium's nickname is "Infierno Solar," or Solar Hell. It's evidently a pun on the name of the sponsoring corporation (Sol Breweries), and the team name, as well as the fact that watching a ball game here can be hellishly hot for the majority of fans who don't get to sit in the shade.
Even though there are some nice aesthetic touches, such as palm trees beyond right field, Foro Sol seems to be a big step backward for the Red Devils. Their previous stadium -- Parque Deportivo Seguro Social -- was explicitly designed as a baseball stadium and had some nice design features. The "Social Security Sports Park" (as it would be called in English) opened in 1955, with a seating capacity of 30,000. It was located straight south of downtown Mexico City, a few miles west of Foro Sol. In 1999 the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS) announced they were going to sell the old stadium, and it was demolished in 2003. Some kind of commercial center was built in its place. When the Red Devils first began playing in 1940, their home was at Parque Delta, at the same location as Parque Deportivo Seguro Social.
What about the playing field at Foro Sol? The dimensions in left and right field are fairly standard, but center field is unusually deep. For some reason, probably the desire to avoid having concert fans trample real grass, it has an artificial turf. It has a full dirt infield, however; Tropicana Field is the only current artificial-turf MLB stadium like that. Only one other big league stadium had an obtuse grandstand configuration, i.e., in which the angle of the grandstand is greater than 90 degrees: Braves Field. In fact, I would say that, of all past and present MLB parks, that one was the most similar to Foro Sol. The huge (and seldom-used) grandstand beyond the left field fence reminds one of the similar grandstand at Toronto's old Exhibition Stadium.
Foro Sol hosted Pool B of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, in which the Mexican team took second place, qualifying for the next round. As far as (North) American baseball fans are concerned, the main significance of Foro Sol is that it is being considered as a possible Opening Day venue, like Estadio Monterrey was in 1999, and as Hiram Bithorn Stadium was in 2001. Some even hold out the hope that Foro Sol may become home to a Major League Baseball team some day. ¡Viva NAFTA!
The Red Devils won the Mexican Baseball League championship in 2008, their 15th such triumph. (No other team has won more than nine titles.) The former Capital Tigers Tigres Capitalinos also played at Foro Sol from 2000 to 2002, after which they relocated to Puebla, and in 2006 they moved to Cancun. They are now just plain "Tigers."
Foro Sol has been the venue for many major rock concerts in Mexico, including The Rolling Stones, The Police, U2, Bon Jovi, Shakira, and Madonna. Coming soon (May 2011): Lady Gaga! The covered stage is located beyond the fence in right-center field. Including the playing field as a seating area for concerts nearly doubles the capacity to 50,000.