Two new developments in El Paso’s pursuit of Triple-A baseball.
Late today, El Paso Mayor John Cook sent a letter expressing complete support for building a Triple-A baseball park in El Paso.
The mayor writes: “I fully support this project and believe it is an important component to our plans to revitalize our downtown. I hope this clarification rectifies any concern or misunderstanding of the City’s full support and commitment to ensure a successful outcome.”
The letter was sent to Dan Barrett, the principal of Barrett Sports Group LLC, who spoke in support of Triple-A baseball in El Paso two weeks ago when City Council approved the deal.
Earlier, Cook told El Paso Inc. he learned today that if voters were to reject a proposed increase in the city’s hotel occupancy tax to pay for a new baseball stadium, the city would be firmly committed to build it anyway – as long as MountainStar Sports Group has acquired the Tucson Padres.
Last week, Cook threatened to veto the sale of tax bonds to pay for the $50 million stadium and the demolition of City Hall – if a November ballot measure to raise the hotel tax on visitors fails.
Today, Cook said he learned that such a bond sale is not the city’s back-up plan. That’s because the city’s bond lawyer has advised that a Texas city can’t sell such bonds for a stadium without voter approval.
“It is the opinion of our bond counsel that certificates of obligation cannot be used,” Cook said.
As Cook now understands the arrangements, which City Council entered into during its June 26 meeting, the city’s obligation to build a 10,000-seat stadium would be triggered if and when MountainStar acquires a Triple-A team.
Cook was out of town for that meeting and was briefed today on aspects of the council’s actions by city attorney Silvia Firth. That’s when he learned that there is little or nothing he could do to stop the process once it starts moving.
“Sylvia tells me the other funding mechanisms were agreed upon at the meeting where the council agreed to demolish City Hall and to build the stadium,” he said.
City manager Joyce Wilson explained the back-up plan this way: “The financing alternative is a design/build/lease-purchase with a 3rd party financing the facility and the city paying lease payments until the debt is paid off.
“The other option is to establish a public facilities corporation that can issue debt and that entity would own the facility and the city would pledge similar funding sources to the corporation to pay off the debt.”
In an email response to a question, Wilson did not identify any potential sources of third-party financing, to whom the city would make lease payments.
Cook said he also learned that any veto he did issue could be overridden by council with six votes, not seven, as he had thought.
He termed the entire arrangement a “fait accompli” – a done deal.
The sale of the Tucson Padres to MountainStar Sports Group requires the approval of the Pacific Coast League’s executive committee, which meets this Wednesday.
The Mountain Star group is comprised of Woody Hunt, his son Joshua Hunt, Paul Foster and his wife, Alejandra de la Vega Foster.
E-mail El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.