The great and terrible Judge Meachum from the Land of Travis County has spoken.
And she determined the City of El Paso cannot build an arena with the typical apparatus that would allow it to offer larger scale sporting events.
Could this be the last gasp, kiss of death, convulsion moment for the multi-purpose entertainment complex turned sports arena that’s trying to swallow up Duranguito?
It should be if anyone in City Hall is paying attention.
The arena is not a boondoggle. That’s too cute a word to describe it.
If built, it would be a financial miscalculation of epic proportions that will haunt El Paso taxpayers and politicians for decades.
City leaders were able to sneak the baseball stadium past citizens through a variety of backdoor moves that pleased wealthy downtown investors and special interests who stood to gain financially.
That was followed up with the 2012 Quality of Life bond vote where they attempted a different maneuver no less shameful.
The city’s legal department approved the voting ballot language, a tangle of words that conveniently removed any reference to ‘sports’ and ‘arena’. All in the hopes of its passage to a public that likely would have voted against it had they known the city’s true intentions.
This wasn’t lost on Judge Meachum and she determined it was in essence a bait-and-switch perpetrated on unsuspecting El Paso voters.
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Barrio Duranguito personifies to a T a city planners dream for a mixed-use neighborhood.
Longtime residents young and old, a heritage dating back to the establishment of El Paso, historically significant architecture, the legacy of several El Paso cultures that called it home, park space, walkability, public buildings, private businesses, and available real estate among many other assets.
If given the chance, it has the potential to develop over time into a prime example of what downtown revitalization looks like when it isn’t obliterated by an arena too big for its pantalones.
This arena as it stands is guaranteed to cost tens of millions more than advertised to build and maintain; it will require more taxpayer funding to provide adequate parking and traffic accommodation; it will sit idle for over 300 days of the year; it will compete with local venues for events; and it will adversely impact surrounding businesses and people in the downtown area by sheer will of its size.
Judge Meachum’s decision effectively dooms what little chance of success the arena ever had, and appealing her decision will only continue twisting the knife in the taxpayers backs.
It’s time to come up with viable options that would benefit all El Pasoans, including our city leaders, ironically. Right now they are damned if they do, but with good options they won’t be damned if they don’t.
Here is my suggested option on with how we split the $200,000,000+ once we put the arena out of our misery.
Invest $80,000,000 into building a world class Latino Cultural Center that will create civic pride, attract tourism and become the spark that kickstarts the revitalization process in the Lincoln Park district—a perennially ignored El Paso treasure that holds great promise.
Invest another $20,000,000 into further development of Barrio Duranguito. Carmen Rodriguez’ recent guest column for the El Paso Times had a number of great ideas worth exploring.
Pay back the investors whom city leaders prematurely sold $40,000,000 plus in bonds for the arena project, and use the $60,000,000 balance to pay for the basics that have gone neglected. Street paving, neighborhood lighting, police cars, parks, unfinished bond projects, etc.
Do it this way and El Paso taxpayers get infinitely more bang for their buck, investors get their money back, and city leaders no longer have to issue $66,000,000 in non-voter approved certificates of obligation.
It’s time city leaders stopped trying to force a $200,000,000+ square peg into a round hole.
It’s time city leaders started thinking outside the Duranguito box.
It’s time city leaders made sensible choices.
It’s time to kill the arena.
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