You are probably perplexed by the impetus to put a new arena downtown.
What’s going on there? More than meets the eye.
Back in 2011, the Paso del Norte Group, now re-branded as the Borderplex Alliance, pushed for a downtown arena, according to this story by David Crowder in the El Paso Inc.
[Then] Mayor John Cook said he was recently approached by Myrna Deckert, PDNG’s former president and CEO, who said, “We need to talk soon about an arena.”
“She said they have the study, but wouldn’t say where they’re talking about putting it,” the mayor said. “I asked if it was baseball, and she said, ‘It’s bigger than that.’ ”
But there were concerns about the arena then, too.
Consultants had advised it would absolutely need an anchor tenant to work, such as a Dallas Cowboys arena football team, and a location that wouldn’t require evicting residents or significant opposition from area property owners.
I guess our local pols are cool with evicting residents now. But do we have an anchor tenant?
And how would a new downtown arena affect the area’s other venues, like the County Coliseum?
“The reality is that if we are going to go this route, we need to look at all existing assets to see whether or not the arena facility would be a replacement for others or an addition,” [former City Manager Joyce Wilson] said. “There is a limit to how many competing facilities a community can have, so if it’s possible to retire some and incorporate those existing resources into a larger more diverse and modern asset, then everyone benefits.”
But fans of the kinds of shows that land at the 6,500- to 7,000-seat coliseum wouldn’t, said Brian Kennedy, executive director of the El Paso County Sports Commission, which manages the 70-year-old facility.
He said he’s heard about the arena plan and that it might mean having to shut down the coliseum, which the commission has leased for seven more years.
Closing the coliseum, he said, would mean losing a lot of concerts and other events whose promoters cannot afford UTEP’s Don Haskins Center, much less an expensive, new arena.
“I think this is really the people’s arena,” Kennedy said of the coliseum. “We do some shows here that wouldn’t stop in El Paso if we weren’t here.
“You can have a small event in a big arena, but it guarantees that you will lose money and they won’t happen too many times before events will start going elsewhere.”
The big questions, Kennedy said, are who would pay for the arena, who would be the anchor tenant and who would it attract that can’t use The Don or the Sun Bowl today?
This story came out in 2011, and now we know that the taxpayers are going to pay for the arena. We still don’t know who the anchor tenant is and who the new arena would attract that can’t use the Don or the Sun Bowl.
How can people make informed decisions when they’re not informed?