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Big council vote on stadium - El Paso Inc.: Top Story

Big council vote on stadium

PCL's Rickey: 'We believe in El Paso'

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Posted: Sunday, September 2, 2012 6:00 pm

The next big day, perhaps the biggest day leading to the city’s plan for Downtown baseball, is coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 11.

That’s when El Paso City Council is expected to consider the long-term lease of the City Hall and Insights Museum site to MountainStar Sports Group, where a baseball stadium would be built for the Triple-A El Paso Padres.

The council will also consider approving contracts to buy the El Paso Times building for about $11 million and the building at 801 Texas Street for about $9 million. If approved, those locations would become the new centers of city government.

It will be a momentous day and likely a contentious one, a day for going forward or pulling back. If it all goes through, MountainStar’s principals will sign on the dotted lines, and Jeff Moorad, the team’s current owner, will get $20 million for a the team now known unenthusiastically as the Tucson Padres.

But if City County balks, city manager Joyce Wilson said, it would be a calamity for El Paso.

“I think we would look very foolish,” Wilson said. “It would hurt our national image and reputation, and it would certainly be the end of any opportunity for any kind of affiliated professional sports here.”

Wilson hopes El Pasoans will support the city’s ambitious plans for baseball and vote for $473 million in quality of life bonds on Nov. 6, despite the controversy over tearing down City Hall and Insights to make way for the stadium.

But City Council members found little support at four boisterous public meetings held recently.

And last Wednesday, Wilson told the board of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce that when it comes to support from the business community, “The silence has been deafening.”

Chamber backs stadium

After Wilson’s comments to about 50 members of the board, the chamber’s president and CEO, Richard Dayoub, asked the board for direction regarding the chamber’s position.

Following the meeting, chamber staff began work on a resolution expressing the business organization’s position on the stadium plans.

On Friday, Dayoub told El Paso Inc. that the chamber’s executive committee will vote on the final wording this Tuesday.

“While I don’t have the final language, we are going to be taking a position in support of the baseball stadium and the use of the hotel occupancy tax,” Dayoub said.

“Our biggest concern is if the voters vote no, then we the taxpayers become the ones burdened with the cost of the ballpark, versus having out-of-town visitors paying for most of the ballpark,” Dayoub said. “If it fails, all we do is put the cost on the backs of the taxpayers.

“From that perspective, it would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

Dayoub said the chamber is also very concerned that voters will reject the quality of life bond propositions “that are so critical to the future of this community.”

Those two propositions will be at the end of a very long general election ballot. Early voting starts Oct. 22.

The Greater Chamber has already endorsed passage of the two bond propositions.

The third city item on the ballot will propose a 2-cent increase in the city’s hotel occupancy tax, which is expected to raise at least 70 percent of the cost of demolishing City Hall and Insights Museum and building the stadium.

Asked why the chamber waited until now to take a position, Dayoub said one reason is city leaders had not specifically asked.

And while the list of quality of life projects had been put together over many months and approved in April, the stadium proposal came up quickly with little public discussion and wasn’t approved by the council until June 26.

That proposal has raised many questions and generated hot opposition in the community, and chamber members are divided, he said.

“There’s a lot of people who felt troubled by the way City Council and the city manager handled this entire process,” Dayoub said. “They could have been much more engaging and avoided much of the vitriol.

“We now feel that because the vitriolic dialogue has elevated to such a high intensity, the chamber has got to speak up on this.”

Profits to charity

In apparent response to public suspicions that MountainStar Sports Group would reap huge profits from its ownership of the El Paso Padres, the group announced last week that all profits would go to local charities.

MountainStar’s members are Woody Hunt and his son, Josh Hunt, of El Paso’s Hunt Companies, and Western Refining’s Paul Foster and his wife, Alejandra de la Vega Foster.

The group looked into acquiring a Triple-A team for El Paso two years ago, possibly the Portland, Ore. team that lost its stadium and was headed to Escondido, Calif., when that state canceled the funding to build a new stadium.

In 2011, the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A team wound up temporarily in Tucson, playing in an 11,500-seat stadium that has been home to two Triple-A teams and the former spring-training facility for the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox.

Although the Pacific Coast League had concerns about the El Paso market, in part because the drug violence in Juárez, MountainStar expressed its interest in acquiring the minor league Padres early this year.

With the Major League Arizona Diamondbacks playing up the road in Phoenix, Tucson has been a losing market for the Padres and its owner Jeff Moorad, who owns 49 percent of the San Diego Padres.

Moorad, the franchise’s vice chairman and former CEO, had been trying to buy the franchise until March when he dropped that effort.

It was about then, after the Escondido deal fell through, that he began looking to sell the Triple-A Padres, one of 16 teams in the Pacific Coast League.

League president Branch Rickey told El Paso Inc. that potential buyer groups in four cities, including El Paso and Tucson, have been interested in the Padres.

Rickey: El Paso promising

MountainStar emerged as the group with the strongest offer and El Paso, as the best market for the team, partly because it has no other professional sports team, Rickey said.

“It is true that there were two parties that were very aggressive in wanting to make bids,” Rickey told El Paso Inc. “After further investigation, we deemed those other two would be subordinate to pursue the MountainStar proposal.”

Rickey was hesitant to name the communities because both have lower-level professional baseball teams, but potential investors were interested in upgrading to Triple A.

“What I can confirm to you is that we were approached,” Rickey said. “The Pacific Coast League had people approach it wanting to buy, to explore relocating in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“There was interest in doing two things: One was a possible relocation of an existing team and the possible acquisition of another.”

Such a move may take place in the future, Rickey said, but the league decided to pursue MountainStar’s stronger offer.

“There is another city as well as that one that also has a team,” he said. “They had a group approach Jeff Moorad and explore buying the team from Jeff, and Jeff asked if he could get approval from us.

“We told him that we would far prefer that you pursue the possibilities with El Paso. During that time in negotiations with the other city, he was being offered less money. El Paso had trumped the offer and Jeff said, ‘You don’t have to worry about this other city, we won’t negotiate further.’ ”

Rickey added, “We were far enough along to be arranging a visit to that city.”

Rickey and other PCL executives visited El Paso two years ago to meet with MountainStar, inspect Cohen Stadium and look at Downtown.

The league deemed a possible move to Cohen or Northeast El Paso to be a “nonstarter,” Rickey has said.

El Paso, he said, is a promising market for a lot of reasons.

“We did not mean to relocate a team to El Paso if we did not believe in what El Paso itself believes in, and that is it’s a market that’s on the verge of growing and blossoming further on both sides of the border.”

But, he added, “The business model that has been proposed does not depend on a single fan coming across the border. We believe in the vitality of the region.”


 

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

© 2015 El Paso Inc.. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • 1 Comments may be printed in El Paso Inc. or affiliated publications' print editions.
  • 2 Comments may be edited for space and clarity.

Welcome to the discussion.

7 comments:

  • makaio posted at 12:47 pm on Sun, Sep 16, 2012.

    makaio Posts: 5

    Some personal notes first, followed by my email to city officials:

    - - - -

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_21555232/concessions-downtown-el-paso-stadium-but-no-deal

    The fact that Mountain Star Sports made very short-notice adjustments to this deal likely speaks volumes to how much flexibility they truly have and how this whole thing is possibly all about real estate power at taxpayer expense, as opposed to baseball.

    It's terrible that the go or no-go on a baseball stadium comes down to pressure on first Acosta and then Cook -- only two people -- rather than voters. And it's terrible that our so-called local journalists are in bed with stadium proponents, with an over-appraised by $4M old building to boot.

    Bravo to Carl Robinson, Eddie Holguin, Emma Acosta, and (hopefully) John Cook! And shame on every power broker trying to force such a high-risk impact on El Pasoans' pocketbooks.

    - - - -

    to:
    district3@elpasotexas.gov, district4@elpasotexas.gov, district6@elpasotexas.gov, mayor@elpasotexas.gov

    cc:
    district1@elpasotexas.gov, district2@elpasotexas.gov, district5@elpasotexas.gov, district7@elpasotexas.gov, district8@elpasotexas.gov, citymanager@elpasotexas.gov

    subj:
    (Partly premature) Sincere thanks !!!!

    To Representatives Robinson, Holquin, & Acosta, and Mayor Cook,

    I would like to thank you all (arguably prematurely in part) for your representation of the ideal that El Pasoans should support major quality of life improvements via a vote, rather than private sector and political pressure.

    I am sorry that this potential stadium impact (a very expensive loss-generating impact in my view), its consequent pressures, and go or no-go decision comes down to so few of you, rather than El Pasoans at large. I won't be surprised if the Times, with their conflict of interest, and a handful of proponents spin things to make you out as the bad guys & gal. You're not! You're our representatives, and you're the good guys!

    Thanks again, ...

    - - - -

     
  • BamaCrazy posted at 7:54 am on Sun, Sep 16, 2012.

    BamaCrazy Posts: 1

    "Richard Dayoub is president and CEO of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce. " He wrote an opinion piece in today's El Paso Times.

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/opinion/ci_21553242/dont-let-this-opportunity-slip-away

    He sounds like what Eve must have sounded like convincing Adam to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.

    As former Fresno Mayor stated, If El Paso wants a downtown stadium, he said, there are cities to look at, including Oklahoma City and Louisville, Ky., that pulled it off with little or no public debt.

    The fast pace and behind closed doors that city officials are taking almost assures tax payers that property taxes will increase. I am in the military and pay more in property taxes here that I did in Arizona, and the house in Arizona cost $100,000 more than the one here in El Paso. City Officials tell us that the HOT will pay for the majority of the construction cost to build the stadium, but anyone who has ever built something knows there are cost overruns. Plus, there is moving city hall, the Insights Museum, locations for parking, the cost of having a fragmented city hall and IT cost, etc, etc.

    I would think that the citizens of El Paso would be more interested in another sport such as boxing and soccer. Do city officials not know its citizens. I drive down bumpy Montwood and think that there are better ways to spend tax money, and the power hungry city officials who ignore the peoples right to vote how their tax money is spent should be ashamed of themselves and embarrassed for letting this plan move ahead.

     
  • makaio posted at 12:24 am on Fri, Sep 14, 2012.

    makaio Posts: 5

    Below is my final attempt to communicate to city officials. I do realize and appreciate the positive impact a handful of locals and representatives are trying make with a new stadium, but presently most everything about this is wrong. What's more is that a few friends claim it's simply a private real estate power play downtown -- little to do with baseball.

    - - - -

    Dear Sirs and Madams,

    In an attempt to cover the new stadium project briefly:
    - It is expensive and is bound to become exhorbitantly expensive;
    - It will negatively impact other city projects, repairs, maintenance, raises, and possibly even our childrens' educations;
    - It is not representative of constituents' desires simply because the majority of voters' desires are not known;
    - Underhanded or not, it reeks of secretive dealings that favor wealthy entrepeneurs rather than a majority of El Pasoans;
    - Committing generations of El Pasoans to it before knowing its myriad of city planning impacts and before having its funding solution in place is outright bogus (to put it nicely); and
    - Its revenue projections are also outright bogus.

    I urge the City Council, City Manager, and Mayor to stop this fiscal & political trainwreck and do the ethical thing -- allow El Pasoans to vote on the current plan, or hopefully an even better plan with fewer negative aspects than those above.

    For the current plan, our family members are the ones who will shoulder its costs expected to go beyond $100M, and who will watch other city services suffer for generations at the expense of a poorly planned loss-generating stadium.

    If you do not stop this, hundreds of thousands of El Pasoans will experience this debacle, simply due to the desires of little more than a handful of unrepresentative and unethical politicians (even if I exclude the notion of underhanded shenanigans to force this on El Pasoans, the manager's and council's backward and partial funding solution alone is in no way ethical ... in fact it's deplorable).

     
  • jelptex posted at 3:42 pm on Thu, Sep 6, 2012.

    jelptex Posts: 9

    ..."City Manager" Wilson...
    "Look foolish"...City Council...El Paso... ??

    'Nuf said...

     
  • Corrupt El Paso posted at 1:43 am on Tue, Sep 4, 2012.

    Corrupt El Paso Posts: 1

    If the El Paso Times is so eager to leave their building, the baseball stadium should be built there with easy access to the freeway, plenty of room to add trees and walking plazas, and existing parking with room to add more. There is no need to demolish a 10 story building which would end up losing money in the value of the building. The city should pay no more than 50-60% of the cost with the rest funded by either Hunt/Foster or another private investment group. Eventually when the Union Pacific railroad leaves, a large Central Park with an iMax could be put in its place, or an additional soccer stadium.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=321669504595597&set=a.201800649915817.44186.100002576495376&type=1

     
  • maddmaxxelpaso posted at 10:04 pm on Mon, Sep 3, 2012.

    maddmaxxelpaso Posts: 10

    Mayor Cook stated in recent Times article that no tax payer monies could be spent on funding the building of the new proposed baseball stadium. This per the Texas Attorney General ruling on this issue. Can we have El Paso Inc. investigate and report thoroughly and fully on this very important issue that impacts the tax paying citizens of El Paso!!!

     
  • makaio posted at 4:47 pm on Mon, Sep 3, 2012.

    makaio Posts: 5

    Of course the City Council is going to vote for this next step. Six council members, Ms. Wilson, and possibly the Mayor appear to be well along in forcing El Pasoans' hands on this topic. (I have yet to figure out if the Mayor's position has been consistent.)

    It's sounds as though the Chamber of Commerce is more concerned about El Pasoans' wishes -- whether for or against a new stadium and related commitments -- than government leadership. So now the City Council has to force the Chamber's hands as well.

    Too bad the Chamber of Commerce isn't running the city. They certainly sound more ethical and more representative of El Paso than the City Council.

     

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