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Business & Economy Coronavirus

Locomotive will be first El Paso pro sports team to return to action, but uncertainty abounds

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El Paso’s sports scene, as in other cities across the United States, has taken a backseat because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The El Paso Locomotive, though, is getting ready to get back in action. 

It’s not yet clear whether fans will be part of the return to play. Safety remains an overriding consideration, said Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Locomotive and the El Paso Chihuahuas Triple-A baseball team.

Alan Ledford is president of MountainStar Sports Group, owner of the El Paso Locomotive. (Photo courtesy of MountainStar Sports.)

“There’s been no decision yet from the league and the organization on whether fans will be allowed into the games or what that will look like,” he said. “We are doing the work to make those determinations. All of this work has been in the planning stage. We are staying in touch with league and local officials and want to understand the parameters before playing.”

The United Soccer League Championship Board of Governors voted in favor of moving forward last week, with a tentative opening day set for July 11. 

Locomotive goalkeeper Logan Ketterer said players heard about the USL’s 16-game season plan and “we’re pretty excited to get back to play.”

The players are rusty but have been working to stay in shape.

Early on during the quarantine, I was pretty much going out running when I could and doing body-strength exercises. A few weeks ago, I started working out in a group of four players and we all were adhering to social-distancing requirements. Now we can work out with 10 players and can do crossing and finishing exercises together,” Ketterer said.

Ledford said the response from fans has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Through social media and one-on-one conversations, everyone is very excited,” he said. “Putting on a season right now is not an easy undertaking. We and the league as a whole wanted to look for the safest way to return.

“We’re sending a very positive signal to the soccer community nationally but specifically to local fans. We are going to be able to provide live sports, something we’ve missed so much.”

Plans for the Chihuahuas, who share Southwest University Park with the Locomotive, remains murky.

Minor League Baseball teams are at the mercy of ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players union over what the big league season will look like. The widespread assumption is that the 2020 minor league season has been lost.

Cover photo: El Paso Locomotive goalkeeper Logan Keterrer and his teammates are preparing to return to play July 11. (Photo courtesy of El Paso Locomotive.)

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Joe Rutland

Joe Rutland is a freelance journalist who lives in El Paso. He's a former assistant city editor with The El Paso Times and has worked for newspapers in Texas and Arizona as a reporter, columnist, and copy editor.

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