Sportspark woes: Contractor speaks out

Reviewing a $7 million county project

Contractors speaks to ABC-7 exclusively

EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Sportspark isn't finished. The project, which is costing the county more than $7 million, has been a source of many debates in recent weeks. Representatives of both the architecture firm and the contractor have pointed fingers during county meetings spanning over the past four weeks. On Thursday, the contractor broke its silence outside of meetings speaking with ABC-7.

Danny Gonzalez, the project manager, hasn't worked on the project from the start. He admits Sunlight Enterprises had to make changes, but he said the real issues lie with Parkhill, Smith & Cooper; the architecture firm responsible with the drawings for the revamped Sportspark.

Gonzalez pointed out a number of issues. According to him, the design for a staircase was flawed, and wouldn't meet the concrete walkway or ADA requirements if the stairs are built the plans the way they're drawn. He also said that a building wouldn't pass inspection because of the insistence of the architect to use a gas heater that couldn't get approval. Gonzalez states that the whole ordeal set the project back five months.

Gonzalez has mountains of documents that, he says, show numerous issues. He's quick to point out that similar conditions arise with most construction sites. He told ABC-7 that he's only speaking out because he feels that both Parkhill, Smith & Cooper and El Paso County leaders have dragged his company's name through the mud.

"It's still a beautiful project," said Gonzalez, "and the conditions that are coming up can be resolved, but unfortunately if they can't be resolved they're going to have to be resolved with funds, or a change of contract."

Parkhill, Smith & Cooper hasn't returned phone calls seeking comment. The company hasn't made any public statements about the alleged issues, aside from comments made to commissioners during portions of open meetings. In fact, the architects are considered the representatives of El Paso County in this matter -- meaning they might not make any public statements until everything wraps up.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar declined comment, but said the discussion will be brought to light at a later date. According to her, the commissioners have decided the primary goal at this point in time is to get the Sportspark done. If fingers will be pointed by the county, blaming anyone for issues that arose, that won't happen now.

In the short-term, some baseball continues to be played at the portions of the Sportspark that has been finished. Four fields were turned over to the county at an earlier date, but the loss of revenue from the park not being opened more quickly has clearly drawn concerns and criticism from those involved in the project.

The initial contract called for two separate phases in the project. An extension was given to the first phase of the project, but it was set to run congruent with the second phase. Gonzalez said that wasn't the way his company believed the contract should work, and that portions of phase II would be inevitably delayed because phase I wasn't completed.

The county hasn't given a date it's hoping to have the project completed by since the delays. According to members of the court, they're hoping to have a better idea after the next county meeting. Next Monday is a holiday, so that information likely won't be available until Nov. 18.

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