Another Battle Brewing with Proposed Downtown Arena Site
Last week, we learned where city officials were planning to locate El Paso's new $180 million downtown arena. As usual, the public reaction was mixed. The big question surrounding the two block area south of the Convention Center is whether or not it contains homes and buildings that would be considered part of historical preservation. Some residents claim that they have lived in the area for more than 100 years and now they will have to be relocated.
Although city officials did not reveal what other areas were being considered for the arena, sites like the Union Pacific Railroad yards east of City Hall and the warehouse district by Cotton and Olive streets were among those being speculated. From a geographic standpoint, the arena footprint makes a lot of sense. It is close walking distance to Southwest University Park and right behind the Convention Center. Although some people are confused why El Paso needs two adjacent venues for conventions and meetings, other cities have similar setups to hold a much larger event, like a Comic-Con.
Bernie Sargent and Max Grossman, chairman and vice chairman of the El Paso County Historical Commission both told the El Paso Times that the city never consulted them or their county-appointed organization about their desire to locate the new arena by the Convention Center. Buildings like the 115-year old "Mansion" at 306 West Overland is the oldest former brothel in El Paso. It would be demolished as part of the new multi-purpose arena.
On Tuesday, City Council will vote on selecting this site for the new arena. Although specific details about seating capacity have not been released, it is rumored to seat 12,500 people with expansion to 15,000. I am optimistic that designers would consider expanding the capacity to 18,000 in order to house larger marquee events. A 12,500 seat arena is the same as the Don Haskins Center, but its lack of suites will make the new downtown facility a much preferred venue for sporting events and concerts.