MountainStar Sports Group executives have met with railroad company Union Pacific in an effort to purchase a portion of their property.
It is one of 10 properties, including the former Asarco site, that MountainStar is considering for a soccer stadium, executives told El Paso Inc.
El Paso businessmen Paul Foster and Josh Hunt, along with the other members of MountainStar, which owns the Chihuahuas baseball team, are working to bring a soccer team to El Paso.
Hunt said they are pursuing United Soccer League, a professional men’s soccer league that is a step under Major League Soccer. They hope the league will bring a team to El Paso.
Nicholas Murray, a spokesperson for the USL, told El Paso Inc. the league is interested in El Paso.
“The USL is looking closely at El Paso, Texas, as a new home for a future Division II franchise,” Murray said in an email statement. “We are pleased to see the hard work that has been put in by the Hunt and Foster families, along with a management team led by Alan Ledford of MountainStar Sports Group.”
MountainStar and Union Pacific met two weeks ago to discuss the sale of the Union Pacific property. It is located just south of Interstate 10 near Downtown and is home to a train warehouse decorated with Christmas lights.
In the end, Union Pacific rebuffed MountainStar’s advances, and the hunt for a stadium location continues.
“The question was posed if we’d be selling a portion of the property there for their project,” Jeff Degrass, a Union Pacific spokesman said. “We are not interested.”
The rail yard on South Dallas Street is an important piece of Union Pacific’s operation in El Paso and heavily used by the company, Degrass said.
“We get approached by outside entities on a regular basis all over our network for folks looking to do different projects and land acquisition,” Degrass said.
Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar, and Hunt would not comment on the Union Pacific meeting.
“I am not going to really comment on Union Pacific,” Hunt said. “We had very initial discussions with them that involved one of half a dozen different sites we had some architects exploring as possibilities.”
Ledford said the USL is interested in bringing a team to El Paso.
“We’ve had some very positive discussions with the folks at the USL,” he said. “They’re very interested in the market and interested in this ownership group.”
According to Ledford, USL representatives were impressed by the community’s interest in the Chihuahuas baseball team and Downtown ballpark. Another selling point, he said, is MountainStar’s minority ownership of the Bravos soccer team in Juárez.
“They were very excited to see the quality of this venue and quality of the experience here,” Ledford said.
MountainStar said it is meeting with public officials to discuss a public-private partnership between MountainStar and the city or county for the construction of a soccer stadium, which would serve as a home for the team.
Hunt, the CEO of MountainStar, said they have wanted to bring a soccer team to El Paso for several years. He said participation between the private and public sector is needed to bring a USL team to El Paso and build the stadium.
“That’s a model used across the country,” he said. “I think it would be a model we would continue to look at utilizing for a soccer facility.”
One of the properties MountainStar is looking at is the former Asarco site, according to Hunt. The site would accommodate a 7,500-foot stadium, he said.
The UT System is in the process of buying the entire 458-acre property and has been in final contract negotiations since the Board of Regents approved the purchase last November.
Roberto Puga, the bankruptcy trustee charged with dismantling the 100-year-old smelter, did not respond to phone calls made by El Paso Inc. The University of Texas at El Paso provided a statement.
“While we do not discuss ongoing negotiations, we are still interested in the site,” said Richard Adauto, UTEP executive vice president. “At the appropriate time, we will be glad to provide additional information on the status of the transaction.”
Hunt declined to release the specific sites they are considering but did say some of them are in the Downtown area.
“We would prefer for it to be Downtown,” he said.
The USL is expanding the number of teams it has and recently added a Las Vegas team. Hunt said MountainStar’s push to add a professional soccer team to the El Paso market is well timed with the league’s expansion efforts.
“I think it’d be a great day for El Paso and our community just like a lot of communities across the country when we have a baseball stadium, soccer stadium and a first class arena,” he said. “I think (El Paso) can support all three.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Aaron Montes at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105. and (915) 777-4154. Twitter: @aaronmontes91