A day after a stadium-record crowd watched a soccer match in downtown Fresno, organizers said they're working to bring professional Mexican clubs back to Chukchansi Park the next four years.
Wednesday's exhibition between popular teams Club America and Jaguares de Chiapas drew 16,126 at Chukchansi Park and generated more than $500,000 in revenue.
"The sound and feel from (Wednesday) night was amazing," said Fred Godinez, an event promoter for Latin Entertainment Inc., which helped bring the game to Fresno. "The Central Valley understands what good soccer is about. It was a hit from everyone's perspective, and that was just the beginning.
"You saw two of the top 10 teams in Mexico. But that means there's eight more teams that want to play here and that we want to bring."
The central San Joaquin Valley almost always has responded well to international soccer, especially when it features Mexican teams.
In 1994, the Mexican national team defeated Sweden in a pre-World Cup exhibition before an announced crowd of 27,192 at Bulldog Stadium. A few months later, the Brazilian national team beat El Salvador before 13,210 at Bulldog Stadium. In 1997, the Mexican national team returned to Bulldog Stadium for a friendly against Guatemala and drew 23,658.
Other Mexican pro teams, such as Chivas, also have played in Fresno before roughly 10,000 fans.
"Anytime you can get a team as popular as a Club America or Chivas to play outside of Mexico, it's a very big deal," said Angel Dinamita, Wednesday's public-address announcer. "It makes some people feel right back at home."
There have been other occasions, though, when Mexican pro teams came to town but didn't play -- or even bring -- their top players.
Godinez said presales tickets were initially slow because fans were leery of which players would actually show.
"Fresno's been burned in the past," Godinez said. "It'd be like people promoting that the San Francisco Giants (were) playing in Stockton but only one reserve from the Giants showed up and the rest were the Fresno Grizzlies."
Some fans came as far as Utah and Arizona. A solid portion traveled from Mexico. Many wore yellow jerseys is support of Club America, the storied Mexico City side that has won 14 Mexican league titles. Club America's fans from Los Angeles arrived in seven bus loads.
About 800 fans had to be turned away at the gate, Godinez said.
Club America coach Miguel Herrera said he would welcome a return to Fresno.
"It was a great experience for the people and for the teams with the full stadium," Herrera said Thursday through an translator. "It's similar to other cities in America. But yesterday was a great experience because there are many fans here in California. It's wonderful."
Before the match, more than 1,500 people waited at Fresno Yosemite International to greet Club America. About 800 more waited around the team's hotel, hoping for autographs and photos with players.
"The best part was the fans, the people of America," said Club America defender Patricio Trevino Tripp. "It was a good game. This is a beautiful place. (The stadium) is not as big, but it's cool. It's impressive. I loved it."
The Fresno Grizzlies ownership group, which runs the stadium, is eager to finalize a deal to keep the clubs coming. Chris Cummings, the primary Grizzlies owner, said he's hoping for a deal in the next 30 days.
"When you're talking about something this worthy, you want to start planning it out as soon as you can," Cummings said. "We think this is fantastic for Fresno."
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