Pacific Coast League asks El Paso sports group to take next step in process to acquire team

EL PASO, Texas - MountainStar Sports Group, the El Paso ownership group trying to purchase and bring a Triple-A Baseball team to El Paso, said on Friday it has been asked to provide a Preliminary Application Review to the Pacific Coast League of Minor League Baseball.

The review is the next step in the PCL's numerous requirements necessary to secure a Triple-A team, and is contingent on the development of a new Downtown ballpark, MountainStar Sports said in a news release.

El Paso City Council on June 26 approved building a baseball stadium at the site of the current City Hall in Downtown. The measure passed by a vote of 6-2.

To make way for ballpark opening by spring of 2014, City Hall would have to be demolished by early 2013 with a 14-month construction schedule.

Projected cost of the ballpark would be no more than $50 million.

The PCL and its members reviewed materials relating to El Paso and the ownership group at its meetings in Buffalo this week where the Triple-A all star game and festivities took place. Mountain Star Sports is pursuing the Tucson Padres.

"We are very encouraged that the Board of the Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball asked us to provide the Preliminary Application Review as quickly as possible," MountainStar Sports said in its statement.

MountainStar Sports said the review could possibly reach PCL by next week.

The group said the request is a standard step in the PCL approval process and is a positive signal. The PCL has already indicated that it is moving forward with the El Paso proposal in an "expedited manner."

Approval, if it occurs, will not necessarily happen right away. The purchase of the Tucson Sidewinders - the AAA team that is now the Reno Aces - was announced in the month of June 2007. There was a scramble to get a stadium deal in place within a couple weeks in Reno, but the deal wasn't approved by the Pacific Coast League until September of that year.

El Paso could be given an official approval within 30 days, according to the MountainStar Sports news release.

MountainStar Sports made a presentation on July 6 in Dallas to the Executive Committee of the PCL.

"We spent a very productive three hours with the Pacific Coast League (July 6)," Joshua Hunt said in a news release last week. "We believe we made a positive, compelling case for El Paso as a viable Triple-A Baseball market, and we hope for a favorable response."

Joshua Hunt said that the PCL and Minor League Baseball do not decide immediately on whether or not a team can be purchased and moved.

"We believe we thoroughly addressed all of the League's questions, and presented the many good attributes of our City," Joshua Hunt said. "As we have done throughout this effort, we respect the process of the League and Minor League Baseball and will wait for that process to take its course."

Franklin Mountain Management, a company associated with MountainStar Sports, registered on June 7, 2012, according to Internet registration records.

Scott Weaver and Paul L. Foster, both officers with MountainStar Sports, also are managers with Franklin Mountain Management, according to state records.

Local millionaire Woody Hunt also is an officer with MountainStar Sports

To make way for ballpark opening by spring of 2014, City Hall would have to be demolished by early 2013 with a 14-month construction schedule.

Projected cost of the ballpark would be no more than $50 million.

With certificates of obligation off the table, the city's Chief Financial Officer, Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria said for the first year the most cost effective method to pay for the ballpark would come primarily from the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT tax).

Arrieta-Candelaria said, ideally, 70 percent of the funds would come from an increase in the HOT tax.

She said the other 30 percent would combine:

$40,000 from a ten cent per-ticket surcharge, estimating around 5,400 people would attend every game.

$200,000 from stadium rent, after the second year, three-quarters of that will go into a capital improvement fund, leaving $50,000 for the stadium.

$700,000 - $800,000 from the city's general fund, according to Arrieta-Candelaria that's money from sales taxes and parking downtown, among other things, but not including property tax.

If the HOT tax doesn't pass, Arrieta-Candelaria said 98 percent of the funding, about $3.5 million would come from the general fund.

According to Arrieta-Candelaria the estimates are likely to decrease over time, but do not include the cost of demolishing and relocating City Hall.

On the morning of July 6 the El Paso Padres website showed the silhouette of a baseball player and the star on the mountain in the sky without the mountain.

By that afternoon the page no longer showed the image and was just an orange page.

Franklin Mountain Management also has registered It was registered in 2004, the same year that affiliated baseball left El Paso when the Diablos were moved to Missouri. showed the same baseball player and star image as the El Paso Padres website until the afternoon of July 6.

ABC-7 reporter Whitney Burbank contributed to this report

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