El Paso

Austin judge reaffirms ruling: City cannot include sports in Downtown arena

Austin judge reaffirms ruling City cannot include sports in Downtown arena

Just a day before a schedule hearing, an Austin judge has reaffirmed her prior ruling prohibiting the City of El Paso from using bond money to build an arena that can include sports.

"A sports arena does not comport with the quality-of-life purpose the voters approved," Judge Amy Clark Meachum wrote in her order Wednesday.

Judge Meachum ruled the City can use bond money for a facility in Downtown El Paso to function as a performing arts facility to accommodate musical performances, theater and other stage performances - but not sports.

The judge also tied the City's hands by banning them from using money from other sources to accommodate sports in the arena.

"No funding from other sources may be used to modify, complete or enhance the Facility beyond this voter-approved, quality-of-life purpose," her ruling states.

Judge Meachum initially issued her ruling in August. The City said the judge's ruling was ambiguous and asked the judge to clarify it and a hearing was set for this Thursday for both sides to argue their case. The judge's ruling effectively cancels the hearing.

Historian Max Grossman, the man who is fighting to stop the construction of the arena in the neighborhood now known as "Duranguito" was the one who argued the City has no authority to build a sports arena. He celebrated the judge's order on Wednesday.

"Her Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are perfectly consistent with her ruling from the bench and her judgment last August," said Grossman. "We are extremely satisfied with the result. It's a huge victory. The city has absolutely no wiggle room to build a multipurpose center that can accommodate sports. The ruling cannot be clearer."

Meanwhile, the City has said its message to voters was consistent, and while the word "sports" was not included in the ordinance ordering the election or on the ballot language itself, the word "entertainment" encompasses sports.

The City, which intends to appeal the ruling, emailed ABC-7 the following statement:

"The City of El Paso believes the judgment (denying sporting events) should have been more in keeping with the guidance provided by the Texas Attorney General before the election.  The City acted in reliance of that guidance and the voters approved an MPC which would allow for some sporting events in addition to the other entertainment and performing arts events. Also, it is outside the bounds of the Bond Validation Case for the court to supplant the discretion of the Mayor and City Council and prohibit the City from using funds in addition to bond proceeds to complete the Quality of Life Projects. The court today issued 'Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,' which is a necessary step for the appellate process.  The City will continue with its plans to appeal the final judgment to fulfill the wishes of the voters of the 2012 Bond Election."

"The City has to appeal because they have to keep the bond holders from being frightened that's what you're not reading about is that 40 to 50 million dollars in bonds have been sold to bond holders, which are major institutions and they have to be feeling pretty antsy and nervous right now, because this bond election was botched and this litigation is going south for the City of El Paso," Grossman said. 

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