El Paso

City stripped wording for project description of all mention of 'arena' and 'sports'

Changes made to Downtown arena documents

EL PASO, Texas - An Austin judge is expected to rule by the end of the week whether sports will be allowed in El Paso's new $180 million facility in Duranguito.

One thing is clear. The city has stripped the words "arena" and "sports" from its request for qualifications -- or RFQ -- that's the document that asks companies to bid on the project.

Now that the debate has become about whether sports can be allowed in the building, instead of where it's being built, ABC-7 is looking through a lot of court documents and one shows the City did refine its wording after sports became the focus of the argument.

"We don't think that any money was authorized to be spent to design or equip or construct the facility so that it can have sports," said Harriet O'Neill, one of the attorneys for Duranguito opponents, who point to changes in the wording of the City's Request for Qualification as evidence they intended to build a sports arena.


The first project description reads: "build a first-class, sustainable arena that provides a flexible and usable sports and entertainment venue to the public."

However, before the start of the trial in mid-July, that was amended to read: "build a first-class, sustainable facility that provides a flexible and usable multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment venue to the public."

All references to the word "arena" are deleted in favor of "multipurpose facility. And the word "sports" was swapped out for "multipurpose performing arts" venue.

"A performing arts facility is very different from a facility that houses sports," O'Neill told the court.

Scott Incerto, an attorney for the City, pointed out that those were two completely different documents.

"Did we intend to build a facility that could accommodate sports? Absolutely 100 percent that's true," Incerto said. "What the City intended from the get-go was a multipurpose facility. We want all kinds of performing arts. We want all kinds of entertainment."

Judge Amy Clark Meachum said her ruling will not be based on what events can go in the building.

"I want to stick to the facility and the build of the facility," Meachum said. "If it's going to be about what's in it, than somebody is going to be regulating until the end of time what's in it. But it's about the building of it and I do think the building of it is different."

Meachum said she would clarify her ruling about what can be built by Friday. A temporary injunction prohibiting any demolitions of buildings in Duranguito remains in place at this point, until Meachum's final order is signed by the court.

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