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El Paso: Let’s sell Cohen Stadium to Tigua tribe

El Paso DiablosThe El Paso Diablos (independent; American Association) could live on if the city sells Cohen Stadium to the Tigua tribe, which owns and operates the team.

The issue: a deal to bring a Class AAA Pacific Coast League team to a new downtown ballpark contains a noncomplete clause, prohibiting the city from doing business with another team in the market. The clause was directed at the Diablos in an attempt to drive the independent team from El Paso, but it won’t kick in until 2016, when the Cohen Stadium lease expires.

Which, of course, came as bad news to the Tigua tribe, which owns the Diablos and have invested more than a million dollars into ballpark improvements. We’re told the Diablos are profitable, so they have incentive to fight to stay in El Paso, and one way El Paso officials see honoring the Triple-A lease while not driving the Diablos out of business is selling Cohen Stadium to the Tigua tribe: the city certainly won’t be leasing a competing facility to another ball team if it doesn’t own the ballpark.

Interesting notion, and that one also avoids a lawsuit from the Diablos. We’re not sure a lawsuit contesting the noncompete would prevail — a city can pretty much do business with anyone it wants, and if the city decided not to enter into a new lease, it’s hard to see a Texas court compel it to do so — and we’re not so sure the Tiguas would be smart to stay in El Paso anyway. There are no markets the size of El Paso where affiliated and independent teams both thrive, and the new PCL team will have the advantage of a shiny new downtown ballpark and tons of media coverage. Indeed, every time a independent team has attempted to compete with a new affiliated team — Corpus Christi, Springfield — the indy team has gone out of business. 

Right now there’s no consensus on a plan for selling the ballpark, and there’s plenty of time to make a decision: a new downtown ballpark won’t open until 2014.

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