Why We Can’t Build an Arena in the Rail Yard by City Hall

Seems like the perfect location, right? Big. Mostly vacant. Downtown. But Union Pacific won’t deal with the City.

Why not?

Here’s a story by Elida Perez from ElPasoTimes.com that’s dated Nov. 13, 2016:

When city officials announced a plan to raze several Downtown buildings for a new $180 million arena, they said an alternative proposal to build it on a rail yard site was not feasible because it would have required costly street closures in exchange.

A majority of City Council members told the El Paso Times that the rail yard site, which would not have required demolition of any privately-owned buildings, was their preferred choice. The rail yard, behind the City Hall building on Campbell Street Downtown, is about a mile east of Union Plaza.

. . .

Union Pacific officials said the company did not formally discuss the arena with the city and made no such demand.

“Union Pacific has not had formal or specific conversations with city personnel about an arena project,” spokesman Jeff DeGraff said in an email to the Times. “We have, however, maintained our position that the city should fulfill its commitment to close the four remaining grade crossings related to a prior deal before embarking on any new, joint business ventures.”

When disgraced former City Manager Joyce Wilson, et al, were negotiating with Union Pacific for airspace over the tracks adjacent to the ballpark, the City promised the railroad that, in exchange for the concession to build over the tracks, the City would close some street crossings in the Lower Valley.

Union Pacific had Joyce by the short hairs, and the City had to give. Or at least promise. The City had already committed to blowing up City Hall and building the ballpark. And they needed that little room above the tracks.

But Joyce, et al, reneged on that deal.

She told the railroad to shine on. Ten years later and the City still hasn’t kept its part of the deal.

After you shake hands with the City, count your fingers.

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