What You’ll Get From the Arena

Best case scenario: Collateral development. Maybe other businesses will spring up around the arena. Like what? When they were promoting the ballpark, the advocates promised bars and restaurants and a vibrant downtown. That never happened. Once you get into the ballpark you’re part of a captive audience. You’re buying $8 hot dogs and $8 beers, and, when you leave, you’re going home.

Yeah, they were lying to us then, and they’re lying to us now.

Worst case scenario: A big box that’s dark most of the year, and a loss of historical buildings that could serve as a base for Heritage Tourism. The City is talking about a venue that will fill the gap for concerts that attract between 8,000 and 10,000 people. Some how, that narrow slice of audience is worth sticking the taxpayers with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and higher taxes.

Inevitable: Higher taxes.

There is no case that can be made that the arena will pay for itself. The City (that is you, the taxpayers) will eat the construction costs and give any operating profit to an independent third party, in this case, SMG Facilities Management, doing business in El Paso as Destination El Paso.

Did you know that that’s what the City did with the Water Parks?

Yup, the Water Parks are currently managed by Destination El Paso.

WTF?

As are the Abraham Chavez Theatre, the Plaza Theatre, and the McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater.

The ballpark, which you paid for and continue to pay for every year, is operated by MountainStar Sports Group, but it’s the same deal. The City, at best, gets collateral development. At worst the taxpayers get stuck with the bills for construction, maintenance, and improvements.

Remember, nearly every credible economic impact analysis of municipal arenas has concluded that municipal arenas are bad for local economies. Google “economic impact municipal arenas” and see what you get. Or you can read this brief survey of articles I compiled here.

Whatever nebulous benefits El Pasoans might get out of a facility that can accommodate that narrow niche of 8,000 to 10,000 people, one thing is certain. The taxpayers are going to foot the bill. Property taxes will go up, and people will flee the punitive taxes, putting more pressure on the taxpayers that remain, further exacerbating our downward spiral.

If we want taxes to go down, the City has to stop spending money. It’s just common sense.

Why is common sense so uncommon at City Hall?

4 comments

  1. I love the last line!
    Rich, do you know what fees and/or commissions SMG Facilities collects from us (the city) for their management services?
    Am feeling so beleaguered by all this. No wonder the CITY of El Paso has been losing population in the last few years. Net loss: ~5,000 was the figure quoted at the Sept 10 forum.
    We need a NEW MAJORITY on City Council!!

    1. Hey Kathy,

      As far as I’ve been able to suss out from the City’s Budget Books, SMG gets all the operating profits from the facilities they manage, as well as a big chunk of the Hotel Occupancy Tax. Plus, the City gives them $350,000 a year.

      I’d welcome anyone to correct me if I’m wrong. Better yet, sue me. Depositions are fun!

      Rich

  2. Well said, Rich. Same old, same old. Ballpark promises have not been kept, and Arena (MPPAC) promises will not be kept either. For that matter, Union Plaza promises …same let down. What’s that saying? ” If you keep doing the same thing you will keep getting the same result.”

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