El Paso

Judge calls in sick, delays decision on sporting events at Downtown arena

EL PASO, Tx - - An Austin judge has delayed a ruling yet again on whether the City of El Paso can host sporting events at the new $180 million Downtown multi-purpose facility it plans to build in the Duranguito neighborhood.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum is out sick, said her court operations officer.

"There will be no order today," 201st Civil Court Operations Officer Vicky Mescher told ABC-7 Friday afternoon. "We won't have anything until Monday."

The City argued the arena would primarily be used for performing arts, but could also host entertainment like sporting events. The City also wanted the judge to give them clearance to use voter approved bond money.
    
Opponents argued that voters were misled about the City's intentions, claiming the City never mentioned the word "sports" in the 2012 Quality of Life ballot describing the project.
     
"The problem is the use of bond money for a sports facility not approved by the voters," argued Harriet O'Neill, the attorney for Dr. Max Grossman, who has led the fight against building the facility in Duranguito.
    
The judge said last month that the City will have the legal authority to build the facility in the Duranguito neighborhood. The only question was whether sports would be allowed.
    
Scott Incerto, an attorney for the City, argued "sports arena" is the term used by opponents and was never brought up by the City.
    
"A determined and well-funded opponent can frustrate the will of the majority," Incerto said, "Grossman's issue is not sports, it's the location. This is never going to be over for Mr. Grossman until he is able to prevent this facility from being built in Union Plaza."
    
Opponents said the design of the facility will determine its use.
    
"We don't believe any funds can be used to build a facility that houses sports," O'Neill further argued.
    
In court documents, opponents of a sports arena proposed several ways to keep sports from creeping back into the picture later. One is to ensure the design does not include locker rooms or other sports specific features.

The other is preventing the city from issuing certificates of obligation to pay for enhancements or completion of the facility later on.
    
Meachum made it clear she did not want to get involved in a political battle.
    
"You all brought me this fight. I didn't pick this fight. I didn't necessarily seek this fight," Meachum said. "I do not want you coming to me for weekly approvals on what gets demolished and so forth. It is not the job of this court to be a shadow City government and go forth and approving or denying."

ABC-7 will stay on top of the story and have the ruling for viewers on Monday as soon as it is received.
 


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