What’s it for, anyway?

I still have some questions about that Multipurpose Performing Arts Center. Like where and when to build it. I know the City says it’s all decided, but, based on their casual relationship with the truth, I don’t trust them. I think I’d understand this whole arena thing better if someone would tell me why, exactly, we’re building it. I mean, what are we trying to achieve with a fancy downtown arena?

Economic growth?

Numerous (and I mean bigly numerous) studies have shown that arenas are bad investments if you’re looking for economic development.

Here, I googled “arenas economic development,” purposely trying to not queer the results by offering any prejudicial search terms and here’s what I got.

One of my favorites is this article titled Stadiums and Arenas: Economic Development or Economic Redistribution? Here’s the abstract:

“This article explores the literature on the impact of professional sports teams and stadiums on their host communities. A large body of research has addressed these issues, some of it academic and much of it for hire by team and sport boosters. The broad conclusion of this literature is that stadiums and franchises are ineffective means to creating local economic development, whether that is measured as income or job growth. There may be substantial public benefits from stadiums and franchises, but those too are insufficient to warrant large-scale subsidies by themselves. In combination with consumer surpluses from attendance, however, subsidies may be efficient.”

See? “Subsidies may be efficient.” That’s a whole lot rosier than the other articles. So there’s hope. A slim, narrow, ephemeral glimmer of hope that evaporates as fast as the morning dew on a nopal pad.

I don’t think we should bet $180 million on that longshot.

I asked someone posting as Susie Byrd on Facebook about the rationale behind the arena. Here’s what that person said:

Well, obviously, Susie and I run in different circles, but I don’t remember the community being very vocal about big shows. Back in 2012, everyone was talking about the ballpark. I don’t remember either of the local papers, the daily or the weekly, giving any serious consideration to the idea that an arena might be a bad idea, or asking the bond proposal advocates what our goal was for building a downtown arena.

And big shows? Like what? Elton John? Bob Dylan? Santana? All those acts played at the Haskins. But I guess if the goal of building the new arena is bigger shows, then we can judge the probable success of it by how likely we are to get bigger shows. And we’re not likely to get bigger shows.  I’m not sure there are bigger shows than the one’s we’re getting, and the proposed arena is going to be about the same size as the Haskins Center.

And I don’t see that building the arena in Union Plaza makes bigger shows more likely.

The arena advocates say we need to build the arena now, because inflation means that our $180 million will buy us less of an arena.

I think the real reason they’re in such a hurry to build the arena is because after the election they’ll have to indoctrinate a whole new cadre of sociopaths city representatives. I understand that can be expensive.

But if, by waiting, we can get a little less arena, and avoid a property tax hike, I’m all for it. After all, $180 million builds a hell of an arena.

Of course, maybe there’s some other reason to build the arena in Union Plaza as soon as possible that I don’t understand. Because I don’t know why we’re building it at all.



  1. I can’t answer your question, richi. I don’t understand why we need to do this at all. And, what dictionary defines the word, arena, as a “multi-purpose” anything? And, I do not recall the “community” being vocal about any aspect of this, personally. I have to admit, however, that we moved to the Dallas area in 2004, and did not return to live here again until July of 2012. So, I could have missed the conversation, even though I did follow local news the whole time we were gone.

  2. I am against the arena, but there is truth in that el Paso misses on the big shows that need new complex stages (often with mechanized moving parts that require suspension from the ceiling) to be put into place. The don Haskins does not have the facilities, lighting, ceiling strength, etc to support some of the big stages from recent tours from Kanye West, Katie Petty, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Justin Beiber, Adele, the Weeknd, etc, etc. The acts you mentioned are all legacy acts that don’t typically have the stages needed by today’s cutting edge performers. Not arguing that we should build an arena in Duranguito, just letting you know that there is a truth in what Susie Byrd said.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t all those acts you mentioned book all their shows through one promoter? Like Live Nation? And then doesn’t that promoter book all those shows in their own venues?

      I’m pretty sure that SMG would never get a shot at any of those shows, even if we built them the Taj Mahal.

      Also, I don’t think that making sure that the Beliebers get to see their idol up close should be the City’s job. Surely the City has other things to fret about.

      1. Is it confirmed that the arena would only be SMG and not Live Nation? I don’t believe that live Nation owns all the venues where they book shows. in Dallas, the big shows tend be be book at the AAC where the Mavericks and Stars play. The venue is book by live Nation for many of it’s shows, but doesn’t own the facility itself.

        Overall, I agree we shouldn’t pay for a venue so the Believers can see their idol, I was making a point that we currently don’t have an arena that can host certain types of shows.

  3. This is an enlightening read from a related situation up in Ohio. http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2017/04/05/q-deal-negotiators-are-fudging-numbers-again-and-this-time-its-serious
    Mind you, this is a much bigger market with one major league and two minor league teams playing at their arena. Two big takeaways:
    1. If/when we build the arena, won’t be long before they want to sink another $100+ million into renovations.
    2. Without any pro sports teams (or with just one minor league team), it’ll basically be empty all the time. Last year, the arena referenced in the article only brought in 10 concerts and a handful of one-off acts. And again, it’s a much larger market and a much larger arena.

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