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Official Review by Gary Butterworth, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Just a short drive, but a world away from Cancun’s famous beaches, AAA baseball thrives at Estadio de Béisbol Beto Ávila. The hometown Tigres (Tigers) are one of Mexico’s most storied teams, having amassed 11 championship banners over the course of their six-decade history. Though the Tigers have called three cities home in that time, the team has been settled into Cancun in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo since 2007. In that short time, the Tigres have brought two pennants to their Caribbean city, and locals, as well as the occasional tourist, have taken notice. Though oversized and perhaps just slightly drab, Avila Stadium is a unique and comfortable venue, and the Tigres de Quintana Roo run a very good operation here.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
One of the joys of attending sporting events in Mexico is the food. Not only is it good, but the variety and service are hard to beat. At Avila, as well in a variety of venues around Mexico, concession stands are rented out on an individual basis. This means that a walk around the concourse will give you your choice of international chain restaurants (Subway), generic stadium snacks (churros), or local cuisine prepared by mom-and-pop operations. Actually, you might not even need to take that walk, since a small army of vendors and waiters roam the stadium constantly. If you don't like what a vendor is carrying, someone is certain to come along momentarily to take your order for something else. A few vendors carry menus in case you're not sure what's on offer, and some of these even include photos you can point to, si no habla espańol.
Though prices are marked-up considerably from what you might pay at a local shop outside the stadium, food and drink are still far cheaper than what you would pay at a Minor League game in the U.S. or Canada, or at the resorts a short drive away that cater to those American and Canadian tourists.
For the 2015 season, a Coke or bottle of water goes for 20 Mexican pesos (USD $1.30 or EUR 1.20, as of April 2015), while a small beer will run you MXN 25 (USD $1.63; EUR 1.50).
If ordering from your seat, a small tip to the waiter is not required, but is appreciated. Unlike in more touristy spots in Cancun, US Dollars are generally not accepted here.
Security checks at the entrance are minimal, and fans are unlikely to have much trouble smuggling in outside snacks. Considering the variety and quality available here, though, you should come with an appetite to try the local ballpark fare.
Most Tigers games in Cancun are played in the evening, which is sensible considering the merciless tropical sun throughout much of the season. As such, there is no roof to seek out, and the darkness means that you can't complain about the lack of an interesting view. Instead, you're free to focus on the game and stadium experience itself, all of which is pleasant.
Views of the action are good. Aside from the cheapest outfield seats, everyone has a comfortable plastic bucket seat. Ushers will check your ticket multiple times to ensure that you've found your correct seat, but aren't overzealous about ensuring that you stay there. Depending on your height, the first row in the upper level behind the plate may be obstructed by a railing, although we had no trouble moving two rows back.
A nice, fairly-modern video board is well used, and sound is good in the ballpark. The mascot is entertaining, and the team's cheerleaders are less visible than one might expect. Public wi-fi is not yet available here.
The stadium itself is perhaps a bit more interesting in person than it appears in pictures. More like cricket and older soccer venues than most baseball stadiums, Estadio Avila actually has five separate seating structures linked only by a ground level concourse. The structures are entirely concrete, but the paint is fresh and colorful. Decorations, championship banners, and team signage prevent Avila from feeling bland.
Except for the English line scoreboard in right center field and the occasional between-innings American pop song, everything at Estadio Avila is in Spanish. A little espańol will go a long way here, but Cancun was built on the tourist industry, so workers are patient and polite when dealing with gringos and others who lack even basic Spanish. Interestingly, the Mayan language can sometimes be heard being spoken around the stadium, and might be more useful than English here.
The Mexican Baseball League (Liga Mexicana de Beisbol) is one of the handful of non-US leagues that, while members of Minor League baseball and thus with officially-assigned levels (in this case, AAA), lack direct Major League affiliations. The quality of play is good and you'll even see the occasional familiar face. For example, former MLB superstar Miguel Tejada is kicking around the Mexican League as of 2015.
On the map, Estadio Beto Avila looks to be located right in the center of Cancun. But maps can be deceiving. Despite the geographically-central location, there isn't a lot worth seeing within a short walk of the stadium.
The neighborhood is safe, though, so the true Stadium Journeyman should make it a point to drop by the neighboring Estadio Olímpico Andrés Quintana Roo, home of soccer's Atlante FC. A few local sports fields, including an American football field, are nearby. Aside from these, well, there's a Costco. And a Home Depot. And a Walmart.
Venture a little bit farther, though, and you'll be able to keep busy. A very long walk or a short drive can bring you to the beach, to the glitz and glamour of Cancun's nightclubs, or to authentic Mexican mercados in the more commercial parts of the city center.
The Tigres fan base is similar to the fan base of most Minor League baseball teams: a mix of families, serious fans, the occasional tourist, and those simply looking for a night out. Many fans do arrive late, but we'll blame that on parking and especially on the understaffed ticket window.
Once inside, the crowd pays attention and cheers at the appropriate times, without overreliance on the video board. The team sells noisemakers, but they are not popular enough to be annoying. Caps and jerseys are neither common nor rare. Fans are polite and mostly keep to themselves.
Opening day and playoffs may come close to selling out, but in general, thousands of seats are available in this large building on game day. The Tigers raw attendance numbers aren't bad, but this is simply a big venue in a medium-sized city. Thankfully, the concrete reflects the crowd noise, and the nearly-vacant outfield sections are painted a uniform blue that blends in with the outfield wall. Even at half of capacity, Estadio de Béisbol Beto Ávila doesn't feel empty.
Estadio de Béisbol Beto Ávila is located in central Cancun. Though Cancun is a thriving medium-sized city with its share of downtown hotels and activities, most visitors choose to avoid the downtown and instead stay in the beachfront "Zona Hotelera," or Hotel Zone. From the center of the city, you may be able to walk to the game, but most fans will arrive by car.
If driving, roads are good, but the stadium is not well-signed. Between this and the fact that parking is tricky, newcomers to Cancun will find that driving to a Tigres game is a bit challenging, but not impossible. Still, give yourself plenty of time, or just take a cab. All taxi drivers should be familiar with the team and the stadium. Some taxi drivers speak English.
Cabs in Cancun are plentiful and can be hailed on the street downtown or found in front of most large hotels. Rates are officially set and available on charts, though it is wise to confirm these directly with the driver at the very start of the trip. From downtown or the northern part of the Hotel Zone, taxi fares are reasonable. Fans staying in the southern part of the Zona Hotelera or closer to the airport (Mexico's second-busiest) should prepare for a big fare. 350 pesos (USD $22.76) and beyond is possible for more distant locations within Cancun.
Leaving the game, cabs line up at the taxi stand just outside the main entrance. Fans leaving immediately after the final out may be able to hop right into a cab. Those who hang around a bit might have a short wait, but will eventually find a ride home. The return trip should cost the same as the trip to the stadium.
If coming from more distant places in Quintana Roo like the Mayan Riviera (Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Tulum, etc.), it might be wise to pre-arrange transportation or to spend the night in Cancun, unless you are familiar with night driving in the area and all that entails (namely dark roads and speed bumps).
Public transportation in city busses and shared vans can also bring you close to the stadium. Though relatively few tourists take advantage of this form of local transport, prices are low, and this can be an option for the budget-conscious. Inquire locally, ideally in Spanish. There is no rail service in Cancun or in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, though projects are being discussed.
Once you've arrived at Avila, prepare on a long line for tickets. Despite the fact that many fans buy tickets on game day, the Tigres open a small number of ticket windows. This is perhaps the team's biggest failing.
Inside the stadium, fans can move around comfortably. With waiters available, fans generally stay in their seats, and the flat and roomy concourse remains clear. Restrooms are among the worst smelling in Minor League Baseball, but work in a pinch. Fans with special needs will find their seating options limited, but probably sufficient.
By AAA baseball standards and by night-out-in-Cancun standards, the Tigres offer an exceptional value. By Mexican League standards, prices aren't as shockingly low, but are still very affordable. For the 2015 season, tickets range from 20-150 Mexican pesos (USD $1.30-$9.75), but frequent promotions bring these already low prices down even further. Children under 120cm (about 4 feet tall) can sit in the two lower-cost seating areas for free and pay just 20 pesos in other areas. Ladies are free on Thursdays. Students get 2-for-1 ticket deals every day in certain sections. Some type of 2-for-1 or even 3-for-1 promo is available for almost every non-Sunday game. A family of four (or more) could attend certain games for USD $1.30. Keep in mind that this is officially just one level below Major League Baseball. The value is incredible.
In a city full of international visitors, Estadio de Béisbol Beto Ávila and the Tigres de Quintana Roo score bonus points by providing up a truly local night of entertainment for the visitor who makes it to this off-the-beaten-path destination. For the local, the team's proud display of its tradition and its assurance that games remain affordable for fans from all walks of like is commendable. Additionally, a quality (though not inexpensive) team shop and free line-up sheet also add value to the game day experience here.
All in all, the Quintana Roo Tigers offer up a well above-average experience that is worth a visit for the baseball fan in the Cancun area.
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