Salvador Alvarado’s Cathedral of Sports looks good for 83

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A group of young women run volleyball drills at the Salvador Alvarado. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Mérida’s Salvador Alvarado sports complex is known affectionately to locals as “the cathedral of sports.”

Aerial photograph of the Salvador Alvarado taken from a few blocks south of the facility. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Inaugurated on Feb. 1 1939, the Salvador Alvarado was named after a revolutionary hero who led large armies under the command of Venustiano Carranza and was then governor of Yucatán from 1915 to 1917.

A group of children sharpens their basketball skills at the Salvador Alvarado stadium in Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though it is known as the Estadio Salvador Alvarado, the complex is much more than a stadium, with gyms and facilities to practice dozens of sports.

What is more, most activities at the facility are free or come at a tiny symbolic fee as is the case for sports like tennis or fronton. For these sorts of sports, pre-registration is usually required given the demand. 

The Salvador Alvarado has several tennis courts spread across the facility, but if you are looking to play you better book in advance at the front office. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Salvador Alvarado is perhaps best known as one of the preferred spots in Mérida for runners to enjoy sprinting on its 400-meter track and leisurely jogs along its 900-meter outer path. 

Members of Yucatán’s track team train on the 400-meter track. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The running tracks at the facilities are especially enjoyed by women, as the closed circuit and security make them feel much more at ease when exercising. On the few occasions, I have personally seen (in over 20 years) someone cat call or make a lewd comment to a woman, other athletes have always immediately intervened. 

One of the great things about the 900-meter track (actually closer to 950 when you include the area over the esplanade) is that it has a great deal of tree cover, which helps with the heat. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Salvador Alvarado’s facilities have always been meticulously cared for by a team of dedicated custodians who really do their best to have the Salvador Alvarado look its best. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another thing that is fantastic about the Stadium is its hours, opening at 5 a.m. and not closing till 10 p.m. 

That’s why when the Stadim closed for remodeling in 2019 for almost a year and then opened for just a few weeks before being shut down again by the pandemic in 2020, athletes both pro and amateur were tremendously distressed. 

The Salvador Alvarado shortly before its prolonged closure in 2019. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though there was a great deal of skepticism regarding the remodel, especially when it came to the tracks, the improvements to the bathrooms facilities and boxing training area are dramatic.

The Salvador Alvarado has become one of Mérida’s most important training centers and venues for amateur boxing. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Stadium also has an Olympic size swimming pool, but it is not open to the general public as it is reserved for the training purposes of clubs and competitive athletes

The Stadium’s swimming pool has been regularly used by athletes who went on to compete at the Panamerican and Olympic games. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

You can also find volleyball courts, soccer and baseball fields, basketball courts as well as calisthenics equipment, and a fully equipped gym – which is packed most of the time. 

The esplanade of the Salvador Alvarado is also used early in the morning and ruing the evenings for yoga and Zumba classes, mostly attended by folks looking for less heavy-impact exercises.

The Salvador Alvarado has also often acted as the finishing line for races including marathons and half-marathons, as well as international sporting events such as the Central American and Caribean Games. 

Concert held at the Salvador Alvarado as part of the closing ceremonies of the 2019 Rock and Roll half-marathon. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

It is hard to overstate just how important the Salvador Alvarado stadium is to Mérida’s sporting community. The vibe is almost always quite relaxed and easygoing, which makes pushing yourself physically all the easier. So whether you are a resident of Mérida or a visitor, if you are looking for a great workout and a supportive community look no further than the Salvador Alvarado.

Outdoor calisthenics equipment at the Salvador Alvarado. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
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