By Steve Ortega
July 12, 2012
Why can’t the decision about Triple A Baseball be taken to the voters?
As a general rule, the City of El Paso puts quality of life investments up for a public vote. The 2012 Quality of Life Bond Election is an example. Professional sports team relocations involve extremely competitive and time sensitive transactions. In this case - and in a competitive market -Triple A officials would not wait until a November election for a decision.1 To call for an election in November on the ballpark issue would preclude Triple A Baseball from coming to El Paso.
The decision seemed rushed – why?
The potential of having Triple A Baseball in El Paso has been discussed for several years.2 Sports franchise attraction and negotiations often involve short windows for action. The Texas Open Meetings Act requires that notice of these types of decisions be posted for at least 72 hours before the scheduled meeting.3 In this case, notice of the issue was given at approximately 12:30 p.m. on the Thursday before the Tuesday, June 26 meeting. The city’s action resulted in well over 100 hours notice – far exceeding state requirements.
I don’t like baseball, why should I support the ballpark? What’s the total economic impact?
The main justification for the support of the ballpark is direct and indirect economic development related to Triple A Baseball in El Paso. Cities that are going to compete in the 21st Century economy must offer quality of life amenities that are attractive to businesses, entrepreneurs, and the human capital that they employ.4 Over a 25 year period, it is estimated that the direct economic impact of the project will be about $450 million.5 The indirect economic impact (restaurants, retail, residential, etc.) is estimated to be over$1.2 billion over the same period.6 Thus, the total economic impact of Triple A in El Paso is estimated to be over $1.6 billion over 25 years.
Over the last seven years, El Paso’s downtown has undergone a renaissance. In that time, the local public and private sectors have invested over $250 million in downtown. Local political and business leaders realize that downtowns matter because they reflect on the health and vibrancy of a community.7 A downtown ballpark complements public and private investment in the San Jacinto Park area, the museum/arts district, and Union Plaza. Further, Plan El Paso advises that exemplary projects should be directed to the downtown where they “will have economic and social benefits shared by the entire city.”8
How much will it cost to construct the ballpark? How will it be financed?
A total of up to $50 million will be allocated for demolition, site preparation, and construction of the ballpark.9 There are two scenarios for financing: 1) Voters approve an increase to the “hotel/motel tax” of 2% that will generate approximately $35 million – the $15 million balance would be paid by ballpark related revenue generators (i.e., ticket surcharges, parking revenues, concessions, rental fees, etc.) or 2) if voters do not approve an increase of hotel/motel tax, then the ballpark would be funded by general revenues (i.e., sales taxes, bridge revenues, meter revenues, etc.,) to exclude property taxes.
Why the city hall site?
Use of the city hall site eliminates the need for private property acquisition and allows the project to proceed in a timely manner in the community’s
downtown core.10 Additionally, the city hall site is strategically situated given downtown land uses, is accessible from I-10 and the Southern Relief Route, and is within close proximity to downtown’s international bridges.
Is there enough parking?
Over 4,300 structured and surface parking spaces currently exist within a five minute walking distance of the proposed site.11 Additionally, the proposed
6 The indirect economic impact estimation uses an accepted standard value added multiplier of over 3.0. Source: City of El Paso Planning and Economic Development Director Matt McElroy site is located near current and/or planned Sun Metro stops, Rapid Transit System stops, and trolley stops.
How much will a new city hall cost? Does it make economic sense to build a new city hall when we already have one?
Depending on the strategy deployed, costs for a new city hall may range anywhere from $22 million to $38 million.12 The cost would likely be paid with debt over a 25 year period. This would result in a rate of $5 - $10 a year for 25 years on a $100,000 home. The city hall currently in use needs between $12 million (basic retrofit) and $30 million (full retrofit) in maintenance and upkeep.13 Moreover, Plan El Paso states that the current city hall is in need of reconfiguration to meet urban planning principles and should ultimately be replaced.14
Where will the “new” city hall be?
City Hall will not be immediately relocated unless El Paso secures a Triple A Baseball team. If El Paso successfully secures a team, the city will begin moving out of the current city hall at the end of this year. There will likely be a temporary facility - or facilities – that would be used while a long-term location strategy is devised. In all likelihood, the temporary city hall will utilize an existing building or buildings in downtown for up to two years. After that, the city would likely have three options for a long-term site. They would be the following: 1) use of an existing building in downtown El Paso; 2) construction of a new building in downtown El Paso; or 3) use of a combination of existing buildings and/or new buildings in downtown El Paso.
Why not use ASARCO property?
The ASARCO property is not owned nor directed by the City of El Paso. It is under the exclusive jurisdiction of a trustee, Project Navigator, appointed by the federal bankruptcy court. Additionally, ASARCO is currently not in an environmental condition for this type of development as environmental clean-up of the site will not be completed until 2015.15 After the site is cleaned, proposed uses must be given clearance by the TCEQ and EPA.16 Moreover, the trustee has stated he would like to sell the entire site (as opposed to a piecemeal sale.) Given the hurdles with the site, the best case scenario for redevelopment is 2017 which is not compatible with the proposed 2014 opening date.17
Why not use Cohen Stadium?
Cohen Stadium is over two decades old and is not acceptable for Triple A Baseball according to Triple A officials. It was not designed for Triple A Baseball and does not have the needed improvements and upgrades necessary to meet Triple A standards.18 Further, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo maintains a lease on Cohen Stadium until April 2016.19
What are the responsibilities of the proposed owners?
If the ownership group, MountainStar Sport Group, is successful in acquiring the team then they will be responsible for the following: 1) keeping Triple A Baseball in El Paso for at least 25 years; 2) allowing municipal use of the ballpark for special events; 3) pay an annual rental fee to the City of El Paso of $200,000 for 25 years (a
When will the decision be made regarding a new city hall?
If a Triple A team is acquired then the temporary site(s) for city hall will be made later this year. It is anticipated that the decision for the long-term city hall site(s) will be made sometime within the first half of next year. Factors that will be taken into consideration are the following: urban planning best practices, sustainable and green building considerations, and costs and economic returns.17
5 http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/agenda/06-26-12/06261212-2.2.pdf (pg. 5)
6 The indirect economic impact estimation uses an accepted standard value added multiplier of over 3.0. Source: City of El Paso Planning and Economic Development Director Matt McElroy
8 Plan El Paso, Volume 1, March 6, 2012, pg. i.4
9 http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/agenda/06-26-12/06261212-2.2.pdf (pg. 16)
10 http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/agenda/06-26-12/06261212-2.1.pdf (pg. 7)
11 http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/agenda/06-26-12/06261212-1.pdf (pg. 31)
12 7/11/12 conversation with City of El Paso’s Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta Candelaria
13 July 9, 2012 Press Statement from City Council
14 Plan El Paso, Volume 1, March 6, 2012, pgs. 3.5 – 3.8
17 July 11, 2012 conversation with Project Navigator Trustee Roberto Puga.
18 July 9, 2012 Press Statement from City Council