Taco fans swarmed Chukchansi Park in record numbers Thursday night, with the Fresno Grizzlies’ fifth annual Taco Truck Throwdown drawing 16,916 fans to the downtown stadium.
Crowds began lining up outside the stadium by 4 p.m. and thousands had made their way inside two hours later. The Grizzlies went all in for this year’s edition, changing the team nickname for a day to the “Tacos” ahead of their Pacific Coast League game against the Sacramento River Cats.
Reserved seating of 12,500 sold out Wednesday — the first time the franchise achieved that level of a sellout the day before a game. It was the fourth sellout for the club this season, doubling the amount from 2014.
Two hours before the gates opened Thursday, the last of roughly 4,500 standing-room-only tickets also were gobbled up, Grizzlies spokesman Ryan Young said.
The official attendance figure, based on people who actually went through the turnstiles, was released shortly before game’s end and confirmed two records.
Fans not only topped the baseball record of 14,023 for a game against the Iowa Cubs on May 11, 2012, but also the all-event mark — 16,821 for last month’s match between Mexican pro soccer clubs Chivas de Guadalajara and Club Atlas.
Twenty-five taco trucks were well prepared for the capacity crowd, with Taqueria El Jalisciense bringing in more than 50 pounds of dough to cook fresh tortillas and 200 pounds of carne asada. On the other side of the stadium, Tacos Tepa prepared 90 pounds of its specialty salsa de molcajete and 100 pounds of carrots for toppings.
El Premio Mayor won both the judges and fan votes for “Best Taco,” the team tweeted late Thursday night.
Fresno sent highly regarded right-hander Mark Appel (1-2, 4.45 ERA) to the mound against River Cats left-hander Ty Blach (9-9, 4.27), with the Grizzlies looking to build on their big lead in the PCL’s Pacific Northern Division.
Fresno did just that, beating Sacramento 7-4. Combined with a loss by second-place Reno, the Grizzlies’ margin moved to 11 games