Special Reports

Survey: Only 1 in 4 favor arena in Duranguito

More of the 324 polled are against, undecided

Downtown Arena Survey Special Report

EL PASO, Texas - A recent poll found that nearly as many El Pasoans are not sure of where to build the multipurpose cultural arts facility as there are people who are against it being built in what's been dubbed as the Duranguito neighborhood of Downtown El Paso.

ABC-7 commissioned a survey of 324 people between the ages of 25 and 54 years old living in El Paso county. They were people who watch at least one evening newscast, twice a week. The phone and online survey was conducted by the research company Magid between late December and early January.

Of those polled, 37 percent oppose the location, and 36 percent are undecided. Only 25 percent favor building it in the proposed arena footprint.

The margin of error is +/- 5 percent.

Based on income, those making less than $35,000 a year are the most undecided, at 47 percent. Those making more than $100,000 are the least in favor of the Duranguito site, at 17 percent.

The largest number of those undecided - 40 percent - are ages 34 to 44. People ages 45 to 54 are the least in favor of the Durganguito site, with just 20 percent supporting it. 

According to the poll, 32 percent of men and 41 percent of women are against the Duranguito site.

ABC-7 shared the results with two men at opposite ends of the debate: El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and architectural historian Max Grossman.

Both men agreed they weren't surprised by the results, but that's where the agreement ended.

Grossman has been very outspoken in his opposition to building the multi-purpose center in Duranguito.

ABC-7 asked him if he saw the results as validation.

"I think it is," the historian said.

"The city has embarked on a pretty intense media campaign in the newspaper and on television to try to convince El Pasoans that what they are doing is what they voted for in spite of the litigation, in spite of the very clear ruling coming out of Judge (Amy Clark) Meachum's court."

Mayor Margo brought attention to the original vote that cleared the way for the Downtown arena back in 2012.

Approximately 102,000 El Pasoans voted in favor it as part of the quality of life bond election.
 
"We are into almost six years, and if anything, I would think that a voter would be frustrated that we haven't proceeded," said Margo.

When asked if only a quarter of those polled being in favor of the Duranguito location indicated the city was losing the public relations battle, Margo responded, "I think it's just a fact that the public at large thinks that we can't do it, and my response is, 'We can.'"

Currently, there are three cases in court regarding the arena's location.

"We're in Austin in the 3rd Court of Appeals. We're in Ft. Worth in the 2nd Court of Appeals," said Grossman, "We've got pending litigation in El Paso as well. My attorneys are very busy."

Margo admitted that it's hard for the city to move forward until the litigation is resolved, and he's frustrated with the cost.

"Frankly, I want to remind your viewers that's cost the city $900,000 just to respond to their litigation, and I abhor legal fees like that of any type," said Margo.

The most pressing appeal regards naming rights and including sports in the arena. "The restrictions put on that by the judge's decision, that we are appealing, are what impacts our ability to put together a product that will withstand the test of time and meet the needs of the public," said Margo.

"There is going to be a series of decisions from all three of those courts in the next several weeks," said Grossman, "We feel very good about our prospects for victory."

Both men view victory in a very different light. ABC-7 asked Margo what will happen if the city wins all the court cases, is allowed to host sporting events in the arena and is able to sell the naming rights.

"It's all systems go, as voted on by the voters in 2012, and we'll be able to do it," said Margo. "It's not going to be all sports, and we weren't going to do one team or anything else. We're not going to be taking away from the (Don) Haskins Center. We're going to be adding to the neighborhood and adding to this community."

Grossman would prefer the neighborhood receive a historic designation.

"Can you imagine the bonanza of historic preservation that is going to sweep over El Paso if the process is just allowed to go forward organically? We think that it will be a wonderful neighborhood going forward." 

Grossman told ABC-7 he would like to see the city turn its attention to building the arena at the rail yard, behind the city hall building on Campbell Street, about a mile east of Union Plaza.

That was one of the sites originally considered based on the presentation from HKS Architects.

City representatives have said in the past that that's a non-starter because Union Pacific would demand reduced traffic flow at railroad crossings across town in exchange for the property. Margo stressed to ABC-7 that he doesn't think another location is viable because some bonds have already been sold for the multi-purpose center.

City officials told ABC-7 a total of 42 people lived within the four-block master planning area, about half of which would be the actual arena.  Those residents lived in 18 apartment units and two owner-occupied units. All but one of the 40 renters has accepted a city relocation package and left their old home behind.

One of the two property owners has accepted a purchase agreement and moved out. 

A total of 13 business were located within the footprint.

City officials report that 12 of the business owners agreed to an assistance package and relocated.

 Those businesses include two flea markets with 56 vendors.

A majority of the businesses moved elsewhere in the Downtown area.