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Downtown El Paso Arena Confusion Builds

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Fernando León – Getty Images, City of El Paso, El Paso Herald Post.

Sunday morning, I went outside to my driveway and picked up copies of the El Paso Times and the latest El Paso Inc. Both newspapers led their front page with stories about the downtown arena, however, the stories were complete opposites of each other. The Inc. wrote a positive story titled “Arena ruling eases investor worries.” Meanwhile, the Times plastered their Sunday edition with the doom and gloom headline “Ruling may hinder city’s arena project.”

The biggest problem with last Tuesday’s ruling from Texas 201st District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum is that there’s still one big unanswered question. Can any sporting event be held in the $180 million facility. In the story published by El Paso Inc., they mentioned the conversation inside the courtroom following the judge’s initial ruling.

The city’s outside counsel, M. Scott Incerto of Notron Rose Fulbright, asked the judge to clarify.
“The court rules that we can build a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center. Is that including sports?” Incerto asked.
“I have said you cannot build a sports arena, so no,” Meachum replied.

On Tuesday, August 1st, Judge Meachum will issue her final judgement which should answer many of the questions that El Pasoans still have. When the Quality of Life Bond Issue was being created and later added to the 2012 ballot, sports was a big part of the long term plan. However, since it was listed on the ballot as a “multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment” facility, the omission of sports to the wording was something that could come back to haunt the city. Without sports, it makes no sense to build a downtown multi-purpose center for $180 million. Even if the city appeals the judge’s decision and asks to expedite the ruling, the delay would continue to waste time and millions of dollars.

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