Three factors narrowed stadium site to City Hall
One of the most criticized elements of the City's baseball stadium plan is the site where the ballpark will stand.
The plan is to demolish an old but mostly functional building and relocate hundreds of City employees, while picking up the cost of building a stadium there.
Choosing the City Hall site has drawn a lot of questions and in some cases, even anxiety and anger from taxpayers. That's mostly because the City estimates it'll cost upwards of about $30 million to find, build or reconstruct a new city hall site.
But supporters of the plan maintain it was the most cost effective, viable option to get the ballpark built within the time constraints they had.
City Council members who supported the plan said they had to consider three main factors: Downtown location, land ownership and most importantly, a tight timeline.
Mayor John Cook said the Pacific Coast League stipulated that in order for the ownership group to acquire the team for El Paso, a stadium must be ready for use by the 2014 season, which begins in April of that year.
That means the City has about 21 months to acquire land and build the stadium.
Cook said that stipulation made public land the only real option.
"There are other sites in the downtown area which would work very well. But trying to get them done in a 2-year time frame might be impossible especially if you had someone hold out and force you into an eminent domain taking," he said in an interview on Thursday.
City Rep. Susie Byrd said the council and City staff did look into private options, but there were none that were big enough.
"Not everyone would maybe be willing to sell which is often the case with a public buyer. Depending on what the project is and what's going on so that would drive up your cost and the time," said Byrd.
Also, the options were limited because the stadium had to be Downtown, Cook and Byrd said, and not just because the City wanted it there.
"The Pacific Coast League also wanted that as a priority just because their downtown venues have done very well. And so, Downtown was a very important part of that," added Byrd.
So the City considered publicly owned land. Sites evaluated were the current Sun Metro home, next to the Union Depot, across from City Hall.
That didn't work. Cook said Union Pacific didn't want to move railroad tracks close by, even if the City paid for the tracks to be relocated.
They also considered the Abraham Chavez Theatre.
"A baseball diamond is configured differently than say a soccer stadium or an arena. So none of the other sites had the right configuration for a baseball diamond," said Byrd.
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