City Council Considers Scrapping the Downtown El Paso Arena Plans
According to an email I got from Max Grossman, El Paso City Council will discuss CANCELLING the downtown arena project.
This is the arena that was approved, overwhelmingly, by voters in a bond vote all the way back in 20-FREAKING-12!
SOME ARENA HISTORY
At the time, $180 million was allotted for the arena project.
As of September 2022, only $150 million of that stack remain.
So far, they haven’t even broken ground on the arena project.
SOME ARENA QUESTIONS
So…where did that 30 MILLION DOLLARS go?
For starters, over 3 Million has been spent just since 2017 on legal expenses. Part of the reason there’s no sign of a downtown arena is that the whole thing has been mired in litigation. Also, there was a feasibility study to see HOW the arena could be built AND still come in at or under budget.
The feasibility study cost $800,000.
The El Paso City Council Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023, will be considering “Agenda Item 13” which would cancel the arena project in the Duranguito neighborhood of downtown El Paso.
This is the outcome that Grossman and other preservationists would like to see.
The remaining money could be reallocated to upgrade other downtown facilities like the Convention Center and the Abraham Chavez Theatre.
I get that the arena was “the will of the voters” but, let’s not forget, we were all strong-armed into voting for it.
When the arena was passed it was, sneakily, bundled up with hundreds of millions in other “quality of life” projects. There were community pools, improvements to the zoo, museums and libraries…and, of course, the baseball stadium.
Of course, voters weren’t allowed any line-item veto power. You couldn’t vote “yes” on the things you liked and “no” on the things you didn’t.
It was an all-or-nothing situation. AND, lest we forget, we were told that if the bond didn’t pass we wouldn’t get a Triple-A baseball team…
EVER! If we didn’t vote RIGHT THEN for a ballpark (which HAD to be downtown) we would miss the boat and never have a chance to get affiliated baseball in El Paso. As I said, I felt like we were strong-armed into voting yes.
One other thing to consider: I’ve never heard anyone clearly articulate what the arena would be for.
The various design proposals are for seating 8,000 to 11,000. Oh, sure, I’ve heard arguments about “increasing the downtown tax base” and “making downtown a major tourist destination” (insert eye-roll emoji here).
We don’t have any minor league indoor sports. I CERTAINLY can’t think of any that would draw even HALF of the low-end capacity of 8,000. What do they think is going to attract 4,000 fans on a regular basis? D-League basketball? Indoor field hockey?
Also, an Austin judge ruled in 2017 that the arena CANNOT be used as a sports venue. So, there’s that.
As far as concerts go, I can’t think of a WORSE size for a stadium than the proposed 8 to 11 thousand. A lot of acts that have devoted fan bases are really only looking to bring in 3 to 5 thousand.
We’ve got the County Coliseum that goes about that.
I know, I know…the Coliseum REALLY needs some upgrades. It would actually be a GREAT place for the multi-purpose arena but, again, it HAS to be right in the middle of downtown because of reasons.
MAJOR acts are looking to pack out stadiums and arenas that seat at least 20,000. In 2017 Garth Brooks played FIVE consecutive shows at the NMSU Pan-Am Center, which seats 12,482. Garth sold out all those shows but, honestly, most major acts would rather play one or two shows in much larger arenas.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a “real” El Pasoan (read: one who isn’t a major downtown property owner) who REALLY thinks an arena smack in the middle of downtown El Paso.
By the same token, those buildings in Duranguito are seriously blighted and probably beyond saving, so they should probably put SOMETHING there.
But, an arena that’s never going to get built for events that may never happen is probably not a good business plan.