Three New Professional Sport Franchises in La Paz



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By Russ Ham

Three new professional sports franchises are playing their first seasons in La Paz — the Mantarrayas (basketball), the Delfines (baseball), and the Lobos Marinos (soccer). More than fifty million pesos has been invested in the stadium complex on Cinco de Mayo, and the renovated “Villa Deportiva” now includes a baseball stadium, a soccer stadium, and an arena for basketball and other indoor sports.

The basketball team, the Mantarrayas, plays in the CIBACOPA league — El Circuito de Baloncesto de la Costa del Pacífico.  The season runs from late March to early June.  Arena La Paz covers the block bounded by Hidalgo, Marcelo Rubio, Morelos, and Felix Ortega streets.  It is not a large facility, so even the most affordable seats — under 200 pesos — are close to the action.  For a little more money — about 800 pesos — there are courtside seats that will make you feel like a Hollywood VIP.  The team regularly offers specials like two-for-one seats or free admission for children age 10 and under.  Tickets can be purchased on-line or (to avoid the service charge) at the arena’s box office, open mornings and afternoons, but closed from one to three.

The game is fast-paced and high-scoring.  They play forty minutes (the same length as a college game) in four ten-minute periods, but they score like the NBA, as a 24-second shot clock forces the action.

CIBACOPA had its roots in the 1980s and has held continuous seasons since 2001.  League rules guarantee a mix of Mexican and foreign players.  Eight other teams compete with the Mantarrayas — the Caballeros from Culiacan, the Gigantes de Jalisco from Guadalajara, the Halcones of Ciudad Obregon, the Ostioneros from Guaymas, the Pioneros from Los Mochis, the Rayos of Hermosillo, the Venados of Mazatlan, and the Zonkeys from Tijuana.  Like baseball, when a visiting team is in town, they will play at least two games, often on back-to-back nights.

The baseball team, the Delfines, play in the Liga Norte de México, the “LNM.”  The LNM is a principal minor league for the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol, and the Delfines serve as a farm team for the Pericos of Puebla and for the Durango Generals.  The league is also affiliated with the Liga Mexicana Pacifico.  The season is sixty games and runs from early April to mid-July, followed by playoffs and the championship series.

The stadium — the Estadio de Béisbol Arturo C. Nahl — is on Cinco de Mayo at the corner of Primo Verdad.  The ninety-year-old facility suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Odile in 2014.  The renovation — only recently completed — has added about a thousand new seats, so that it now holds 4,100.

Four other teams compete against the Delfines: the Algodoneros from San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, the Ensenada Marineros, the San Quintín Freseros, and the Rojos from Caborca, Sonora.

The futbol (soccer) team, the Lobos Marinos, will play in the Second Division of the Premier League.  At press time, the team was holding tryouts here in La Paz and all around Mexico.  The season will begin in August, with thirty games running through next April.

The Premier League is made up of forty-eight teams in two series.  The champions can be promoted to the Ascenso league, just one rung below the major league, the Liga MX.

The team’s home pitch will be the newly-renovated Estadio de Futbol Guaycura.  The facility was inaugurated on February 23rd, 2019 with a sold-out exhibition between former players of two of the most popular teams in Mexico, the Chivas of Guadalajara and Club America based out of Mexico City.

Watch the club’s website — lapazfc.com — for more details as the season approaches.

Russ Ham is a musician, photographer, and writer who loves the people and culture of the peninsula.  He hosts an Open Mic night every other Wednesday at La Morante Art Bar.