Here Are the Best Solutions for El Paso’s Arena Problem
In one week, an Austin District Court judge with no knowledge of the city of El Paso will make a final ruling that could have a major impact on a bond project that passed five years ago. When Judge Amy Clark Meachum announces whether or not sports can be part of the new multi-purpose entertainment and performing arts center in downtown El Paso, we will have a much better idea if this long awaited project becomes reality. Hypothetically speaking, if Judge Meachum says no sports, her ruling could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. That could take years and lots of money. At the same time, it would cost the taxpayers precious dollars that could have been used to finance the facility that was approved in 2012. Instead of worrying about delays, historical groups, and wasted dollars, let us focus on the best possible solution to this problem.
1. Renovate the Don Haskins Center. To me, this is a no-brainer since it will cause the least amount of headaches as well as offer up a cost effective solution. When it was built in 1976, the Don Haskins Center (then Special Events Center) was considered a state-of-the-art arena for sporting events and concerts. Now 41 years later, few structural improvements have been made to the facility. It is outdated as far as hosting major concert acts and still lacks luxury suits that many of the modern arenas have. The renovation could include retrofitting the DHC for the new acts, plus all the bells and whistles that it currently lacks. There is so much history with the building that most locals would tell you they would rather watch UTEP basketball games there instead of a new multi-purpose entertainment and performing arts center.
If the Don gets a much-needed update, our city government and UTEP (along with the Texas Board of Regents) would need to get together and come to an agreement. This is tricky, since UTEP Special Events and El Paso Live compete with each other for concerts, boxing/wrestling shows, and other entertainment acts. There would need to be an agreement struck with both parties, where the city would get to operate the DHC for a certain number of dates each year at no charge in exchange for spending our approved tax dollars on the renovation. Even if that was to become a reality, it would have to go back on the ballot and get approved by the voters. However, at this point I think it much more realistic for El Pasoans to support a renovation for an existing arena as opposed to a new facility that would exceed the dollars available for construction because of the long delay.
2. Construct an outdoor concert pavilion in the Duranguito area. This is part two of my master plan for downtown El Paso. Since the city has already acquired most of the land for construction of the $180 million dollar multi-purpose entertainment and performing arts center, why not follow through with this promise and build a massive outdoor amphitheater reminiscent of the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix? If you have ever attended a concert at that venue, you know that it is one of the premier outdoor facilities in the country. If El Paso followed the blueprint and built their own large outdoor pavilion, we would be a logical concert stop either before or after Phoenix. I went on the website for the Ak-Chin Pavilion, and over the next two months, Matchbox Twenty/Counting Crows, Incubus/Jimmy Eats World, Foreigner/Cheap Trick, One Republic, Nickelback/Daughtry, and Depeche Mode will all be performing. I would love to see El Paso get some of those concerts, and an outdoor venue that seats between 8,000-15,000 people could easily attract those acts.
Now, I know that these two ideas are long shots at best. However, five years ago El Pasoans committed over $500 million to the three Quality of Life Bond Issues. Some of these projects, like Southwest University Park have already enhanced our city. We still have a long way to go in order to fulfill the vision that our City Reps and Mayor had more than five years ago. Instead of arguing in court and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, why not move forward before it is too late?