The Paul L. Foster Family Foundation and the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, in partnership with MountainStar Sports Group Foundation, have established a matching grant program of $1million to assist El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank (EPFH).
The gift will enable the food bank to continue providing food and nutrition assistance to the hundreds of thousands of El Pasoans who are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis.
“El Pasoans Fighting Hunger plays a key role in our community by ensuring that any family experiencing food insecurity in El Paso has access to meals,” said Woody L. Hunt, co-owner of MountainStar Sports Group and Chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation. “As more families face new financial constraints due to COVID-19, we want to help make sure those families are still able to put food on their tables and that no one in our community suffers from hunger during this crisis.”
Over the past two weeks, demand for meals and other services has dramatically increased in El Paso and surrounding areas as more families are being impacted by COVID-19. The Food Bank has not only seen a surge in families accessing its services, but also a decline in volunteers, which has resulted in long lines and wait times as families arrive at the Food Bank.
Stuart R. Schwartz, Board President of EPFH said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an immediate crisis in El Paso. “Food insecurity has grown exponentially,” he said. “The mission of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger is to address this very need, to bring comfort to those who have to make the difficult decision to pay rent or put nutritious food on their dinner table.” Schwartz continued, “This matching grant is a godsend. The Food Bank is so very grateful to the Hunt and Foster families, as well as MountainStar Sports Group, for their extraordinary and generous gift. We encourage others to donate during this crisis so that the Food Bank can achieve the full match to continue our important work.”
Susan E. Goodell, Chief Executive Officer of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger said El Pasoans’ need for the Food Bank at this time is critical. “Our Food Bank has been serving families in El Paso County for years, but the need we are seeing in this moment could not be greater.” She added, “We must be prepared to aid families through this crisis. We are so thankful to the Fosters, Hunts, and MountainStar Sports Group for their help during this time, and for others in our community who can donate money or time, we ask you to do so. The need at this time is extraordinary, and urgent.”
The Food Bank is anticipating that even more families will need access to its services and meals in the coming weeks, and it said the best way to meet that increased demand is through monetary donations.
The fund established by the Paul L. Foster Family Foundation, the Hunt Family Foundation, and the MountainStar Sports Group Foundation will match all donations made to El Pasoans Fighting Hunger up to $1million.
Ballpark Digest announced Wednesday that the El Paso Chihuahuas are the recipient of the Continued Excellence Award given annually to a Minor League Baseball organization that has “continued to be a standard of excellence in baseball, create an atmosphere of family fun entertainment and exemplify great community partnership.”
“It is an honor to be recognized by Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest and their entire staff with the award,” said MountainStar Sports Group Sr. Vice President and General Manager Brad Taylor. “They have their finger on the pulse of the Minor League Baseball community and to have them recognize our work is very gratifying for our ownership, front office and gameday staff.”
“With the Continued Excellence Award, we look for those teams that stand out year after year, continually bringing fans the best experience possible,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “The Chihuahuas have been a leader in the industry since the team was founded, and the great successes of the 2019 season were built on the foundations of that continued excellence.”
The Chihuahuas are coming off one of the most successful seasons yet having eclipsed the 3-million fan mark, surpassed 500,000 guests through the gates for the sixth consecutive season, and hosted two Minor League Baseball (MiLB) premier events – the RMHC Triple-A All-Star Game and Jarritos Home Run Derby and the MiLB Innovators Summit.
These achievements are only a small part of what MountainStar Sports Group (MSSG) – who own the Chihuahuas – had in mind when they purchased the team in 2012.
Franchise officials say that with four local owners, Woody Hunt, Josh Hunt, Paul Foster and Alejandra de la Vega Foster, and led by President Alan Ledford and Taylor, MSSG is quickly seeing their mission come to fruition: to improve the quality of life and foster economic growth in El Paso, Juarez and Southern New Mexico region.
“Since Opening Day in 2014, downtown El Paso has benefited and will continue to benefit from more than $350 million in completed and under development private investment, with public investment in current and future projects underway in an effort to create a more vibrant downtown,” Chihuahuas officials shared via a news release.
“MSSG takes significant pride in ensuring that Southwest University Park is always a first-class facility recognized as one of the best venues in the minor leagues. For this reason, MountainStar sports Group has invested more than $19 million over six years (including $3.25 in 2019) into the City-owned property to continue to innovate, design and build new, exciting attractions,” club officials added.
The Chihuahuas, who have welcomed 3.3 million guests in just six seasons, have also been named to MiLB’s list of Top 25 teams in licensed merchandise since its October 22, 2013 debut.
Branding success has led the Chihuahuas to sell more merchandise than any other team since 2014. This success is also evident in the 260-thousand followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, the largest social media following in all MiLB.
“On October 22, 2013, when we announced and became the Chihuahuas, we made a commitment to believe in our brand and to promote it urgently, passionately and excessively. For six years, fans nationwide have bought in as well.”
But officials sat that it’s not all about a baseball and branding. The Chihuahuas are more than their successes. They are community driven and aim to make a difference in a community that has embraced them since their arrival.
In an effort to make the community better by participating in it, one of the core values of the Chihuahuas, the organization launched the Chihuahuas Volunteer Pack presented by Helen of Troy in 2015, an El Paso-wide volunteer force created to give back to the community. The Pack, made up of fans, players, coaches and front office staff, makes a positive impact in our community. Together, they contribute to more than 300 community service hours annually.
Chico, the Chihuahuas mascot, also contributes to the community outreach, making more than 500 community appearances each year. His education programs have become popular among area schools who request Chico for his Turn Up the Volume on Reading Program, Anti-Bullying Campaign, and Red Ribbon Week Rallies to name a few.
But perhaps the largest community impact has been the El Paso Chihuahuas Foundation.
Created to help make an impact to families and children in the El Paso region, the foundation has helped local organizations raise more than $1.5 million through in-stadium fundraising, have provided $300,000 in monetary donations and $150,000 in in-kind donations.
“From the beginning,” Taylor said, “our ballpark and our efforts were about more than baseball. We view this building as a community center and our platform as El Paso’s team as opportunities to do good things for and with our region.”
The success isn’t just off the field and in the community, as the Chihuahuas have been the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate since MountainStar Sports Group acquired the team in 2013 as the Tucson Padres, renewing the PDC through the end of the 2022 campaign, fostering development among the top prospects in MLB.
Since making the move to El Paso, 59 former Chihuahuas have made their Major League debut in Major League Baseball since playing for the Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahuas have had five consecutive winning seasons and won four consecutive Southern Division titles from 2015-2018 en route to two conference championships and two consecutive appearances in the Pacific Coast League Championship Series including a PCL title in 2016.
The team has garnered two PCL MVPs in Hunter Renfroe (2016) and most recently Ty France (2019) and three PCL Rookies of the Year (Alex Dickerson, 2015; Carlos Asuaje, 2016; France, 2019).
To further the mission of providing quality entertainment, Southwest University Park has also become a premier downtown venue, hosting more than 300 events annually, with large-scale events such as the Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon, the Way Out West Country Music Festival, premier boxing events to name a few.
The Chihuahuas under MountainStar Sports Group have continually delivered unparalleled and memorable service to their guests and clients and will continue to provide quality family fun entertainment for years to come.
“As we enter our seventh season our aim is to provide as much fun, as much value and as many memories as we did in our first season,” said Taylor. “We are always looking for ways to improve our product and the guest experience.”
For the second time in 2019, the El Paso Chihuahuas will host one of Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) premier events – the Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit and the Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit Trade Show.
“The Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit is an official proclamation and accurate depiction that our 160 teams are all industry leaders in creativity, inclusion and showmanship,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Simply put, there is nothing minor about Minor League Baseball, and this event proves that.”
The summit will take place at the El Paso Convention Center and Performing Arts Center including the Abraham Chavez Theatre and the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, as well as Southwest University Park, home of the El Paso Chihuahuas and the El Paso Locomotive FC.
The summit will bring more than 500 MiLB executives from nearly all MiLB teams, trade show exhibitors and event partners from around the country to downtown El Paso for four days of industry workshops, seminars, sharing of ideas and best practices and will culminate in an event and awards presentation at Southwest University Park.
Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group and the Chihuahuas said, “Part of the vision for Southwest University Park was for it to serve as a catalyst for economic development and a means to improve the quality of life in this region. We are honored to once again welcome hundreds of executives and show vendors from around the country to El Paso.
“This represents another opportunity to show off our unmatched hospitality and the great things happening throughout our community and downtown.”
Started as the El Paso Promotional Seminar in 1976 by Jim Paul, former owner of the El Paso Diablos, the meeting brought together industry leaders to discuss challenges facing the business and to explore innovative ways to give baseball fans the best experiences when attending a baseball game.
The meeting quickly grew and has become an annual premier event for executives and staff in Minor League Baseball.
Brad Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of MountainStar Sports Group, began working on bringing the seminar back to its original home in El Paso during the 2014 inaugural season of the El Paso Chihuahuas.
During the 2018 MiLB Promotional Seminar in Des Moines, Iowa, Taylor’s hard work was rewarded when it was announced that El Paso would become the host city for the newly-rebranded MiLB Innovators Summit in 2019.
“It is only appropriate in an anniversary year that this event comes full circle and returns home to El Paso,” Taylor said. “Our goal was to bring the new generation of Minor League operators to our great city to learn from each other and to celebrate and remember what Jim Paul and the Diablos started. Now the Chihuahuas carry it forward.”
With the return to El Paso in 2019, the MiLB Promo Seminar now has a new name and logo – the Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit. The summit will include four days of presentations, keynote speakers, including Paul, workshops including a Ticketing Symposium presented by Tickets.com, charity events, a trade show and a Women in Baseball event to name a few.
Attendees will participate in the MiLB CommUNITY Service Project, presented by Musco Sports Lighting and Uncle Ray’s, on Monday, Sept. 23 at the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) located at 7060 Comington St.
The four-day summit culminates with an event at Southwest University Park on Thursday, Sept. 26, that includes the annual Golden Bobblehead Awards, honoring those teams that have had the most unique and creative promotions or events during the 2019 season.
Southwest University Park has seen its share of premier MiLB events since it opened its doors in 2014. The Chihuahuas hosted the Gildan Triple-A National Championship in 2015 in front of a nationally-televised standing room only crowd.
On the heels of the success of the game and during the 2017 season, MiLB announced that MountainStar Sports Group and the El Paso Chihuahuas, would host another nationally-televised premier event – the 2019 RMHC Triple-A All-Star Game and Jarritos Home Run Derby, two events that brought thousands of visitors to downtown El Paso and more than 16,000 patrons to Southwest University Park.
Ledford added, “MountainStar Sports Group has, as its mission, to bring a variety of events and activities to our ballpark. Events like the Innovators Summit fill our hotel rooms, restaurants, and bars while providing a perfect setting for out-of-town visitors.”
The two events have brought in nearly 2,000 out-of-town guests and an estimated $2 million in external revenue to downtown El Paso.
Since the inaugural season the Chihuahuas have welcomed more than three and a half million guests through the Southwest University Park gates paving the way for the acquisition of a United Soccer League team – the El Paso Locomotive FC.
More importantly, the ballpark has become a showcase venue in El Paso, hosting non-sporting events such as the Way Out West Country Music Festival, the Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon and the El Paso Strong city-wide celebration.
The scale of such events as the Innovators Summit and the Way Out West Festival continue to have an impact on the City of El Paso.
“With the Chihuahuas and Locomotive entering their seventh and second seasons, respectively, it is certain Southwest University Park will continue to thrive and serve as a gathering place for the community,” officials added.
The summit begins Monday, Sept. 23 and concludes on Thursday, Sept. 26.
On Thursday afternoon, at a high-energy presentation at the EPIC Railyard Event Center, officials from MountainStar Sports Group announced that El Paso Locomotive FC is the name of the newest USL team in the country.
“Thanks to input from thousands of people throughout El Paso and the Borderplex who participated in our Name The Team Contest, we believe El Paso Locomotive FC and its crest accurately represent this region,” said Alan Ledford, President of MountainStar Sports Group.
“The overriding objectives of MountainStar Sports Group are to improve the quality of life in this region and to make it more economically competitive, and the addition of USL professional soccer beginning in 2019 is a significant step forward in that effort. We’re proud to represent the 915.”
The search for the team name began with a community-wide effort inviting the region’s fans to submit names through the El Paso USL website. The list was narrowed based on creativity, marketability, fun, and relevance to El Paso’s unique character.
Locomotive was the name chosen to reflect El Paso’s history, unique spirit, and momentum. The new name provides the foundation for a comprehensive brand of fun, family-oriented entertainment associated with professional soccer.
“We want to thank El Pasoans for the energy and passion they brought to the Name The Team process. The tremendous community input and support we received is greatly appreciated,” said Andrew Forrest, General Manager of El Paso Locomotive. “El Paso Locomotive looks forward to bringing the high-quality soccer our fans have been waiting for to Southwest University Park in just a few months.”
El Paso Locomotive FC’s team crest was also revealed. The centerpiece is a classic and commanding locomotive engine which includes 11 bars representing the team’s 11 players on the field who play together to defend and lead the team to victory.
The outline along the bottom portion of the crest pays homage to the region’s mission style architecture while the top half represents the Franklin Mountains.
The crest also includes a tribute to El Paso’s mountain star. The team colors are High Noon Sun (yellow), West Texas Sky (light blue) and Desert Dusk (navy).
The identity of El Paso Locomotive FC was brought to life by Brandiose, a design firm in San Diego. The firm has helped to successfully launch the identities of dozens of professional sports teams over the years, including the Tulsa Roughnecks FC, Reno 1868 FC, South Georgia Tormenta FC, FC Juarez, and the El Paso Chihuahuas.
“El Paso is one of the most passionate communities in America. It’s the center of North American transportation and has taken a leadership position in the future of sports entertainment,” said Jason Klein, Partner at Brandiose. “We worked hard to infuse the crest with the icons and spirit that is the cornerstone of the El Paso community.”
El Paso Locomotive FC will unveil their jersey for the 2019 season at a later date.
The team name reveal event also featured the unveiling of El Paso Locomotive FC merchandise and apparel. Shirts for men, women, and children, as well as an assortment of adjustable hats, were popular items available for purchase. Locomotive fans and supporters were quick to buy sweatshirts, tank tops, koozies, lanyards, water bottles, and keychains.
Immediately after the event revealing the new team name, El Paso Locomotive FC merchandise became available for purchase at the Team Store located adjacent to the Santa Fe Street Gate at Southwest University Park.
The store will be open until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 4th. On Friday, October 5th, the team store will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Starting October 6th, the team store will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
El Paso Locomotive’s first game will be played in March of 2019 at Southwest University Park.