The city has erected a fence around Duranguito, where it wants to build a multipurpose arena.

The city of El Paso won a major legal victory Friday in its fight to go forward with a Downtown Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center that was part of the 2012 quality of life bond election.

The win came in a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, which declined to consider a challenge by UTEP professor Max Grossman. He sought to uphold an Austin district judge’s ruling in 2017 that the ballot language was inadequate because it didn’t tell El Pasoans they were voting for a $180 million sports arena.

“It means we have prevailed in that case,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said after learning of the decision.

Margo agreed that the long-delayed multipurpose center, originally budgeted at $180 million, could cost as much as $250 million today – or more. 

At issue was “whether we could have sports in this facility,” Margo said. “It’s reaffirming the appeals court ruling that overturned everything the original judge in Austin said we couldn’t do.”

As for what’s next, the mayor said, “Given the proclivities on the other side, I would imagine they’ll try to file for some kind of delay, which is all they’ve done from day one.

“But this simply is a reinforcement of what we have said all along that the city will prevail, and an outside Houston man is not going to determine what our voters wanted to do in the first place.”

He’s referring to retired Houston oilman J.P. Bryan, a staunch supporter of historic preservation in Texas, who has backed Grossman by financing the work of his legal team.

Their legal efforts have kept the city from proceeding with the demolition of buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood south of the Civic Center that Grossman and his supporters say are all that’s left of El Paso’s earliest days.

Grossman could not be reached after the ruling, but released a statement saying he is “disappointed with this outcome.”

“It bodes poorly for bond elections,” he said, “because Texas cities can apparently issue bond ordinances and interpret the language within them however they wish, to the detriment of Texas taxpayers and their interests.

“It is especially disappointing that so many of our local politicians will celebrate today with the hope of ultimately destroying the birthplace of our city.”

The multipurpose center was the biggest of three signature projects on the ballot that also proposed a children’s museum and Mexican-American cultural center.

In all, the bond propositions on the 2012 ballot asked voters to approve the sale of up to $473 million for a long list of projects.

The two propositions passed with the support of 71% of the 102,358 voters who cast ballots.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.