What Is El Paso’s Next Move In Securing An MLS Franchise?
After 15,171 fans attended Sunday night's friendly soccer match between Chivas and Cruzeiro, many people are asking the same question. What's next? The exhibition had been marketed as El Paso's chance to impress Major League Soccer and show them that we deserve an expansion team. Nobody knows for sure if the crowd at Sun Bowl had a positive or negative effect on the MLS. In fact, Soccer United Marketing, the game's promotional company who is also an affiliate of MLS, offered up a "no comment" when asked about El Paso's chances to land an expansion team.
At this point, the team's future rests in the hands of MountainStar Sports Group. President Alan Ledford joined us on Sportstalk yesterday and spent an hour talking about professional soccer in El Paso. Soon, a new campaign will be launched with a website geared to gauge local fan interest of a possible MLS franchise in the Sun City. MLSinELP.com has already been launched, asking supporters for their name, address, and email. Expect to see a big social media push towards the website in the next few weeks.
If MountainStar is successful at securing an MLS franchise, it would need a new downtown stadium to play in. Southwest University Park was completed with a total price tag of around $75 million. Expect to double those numbers for a new 18,000-20,000 soccer only facility. There is little chance that El Pasoans would vote to increase their taxes in order to publicly fund another downtown stadium. However, few people realize that funding for the state-of-the-art downtown facility is available without an increase in tax dollars.
In November 2012, El Paso passed three quality of life propositions, including $180 million towards a new multi-purpose downtown arena. It is possible that the money allocated for the arena could be moved instead to fund the downtown soccer stadium. The bill would need to pass through City Council and if supported by Mayor Leeser, could be voted on by the public as soon as next May. If voters choose to move the money from the arena to the downtown soccer stadium, then El Paso could be in great position to have an MLS team in place within the next five to six years.
There is still plenty of work that needs to be done. MountainStar Sports Group needs $100 million to purchase an MLS franchise. They also have not identified where the stadium would be built, and it could take a few years to acquire the land where it would be located. However, given the success the El Paso Chihuahuas have had in their inaugural season, there is no better sports ownership group to try and attract MLS to El Paso.