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Mayor won’t veto ballpark lease; PCL to El Paso in 2014

New El Paso Ballpark

El Paso Mayor John Cook says he won’t veto a lease for a new downtown ballpark, clearing the way for the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to move there in 2014.

MountainStar Sports has a deal to buy the Padres and move the team to El Paso, contingent on the city approving a ballpark lease calling for $200,000 in annual rent, mostly financed by a 2 percentage point hike in the city hotel/motel tax. The measure passed Tuesday by a 4-3 vote; had Cook vetoed the agreement, it would have been unlikely the ballpark proponents could wrangle the six votes needed for override. Hence the importance of his decision.

He set forth his reasoning in a statement. Here’s the core of his decision:

1. No voter approval on Quality of Life projects
I was troubled by the fact we are overturning a long standing policy of securing voter approval before proceeding with Quality of Life projects. The City Manager and staff have made the argument that the ballpark is really an economic development project and deserves to be treated as such. The City of El Paso regularly approves economic development projects without voter approval. Further, I was reminded of the fact that past signature quality of life projects were done without voter approval, such as the Plaza Theater and the El Paso Art Museum and both are gems in our Downtown and successful.

2. Demolition of City Hall
After researching possible sites, an alternate site for the baseball stadium could have been the buildings south of the Convention Center all the way to Paisano Drive which includes 38 parcels of land owned by 22 different owners for a total land value of $25 million.  The selection of this site would have created the need to use eminent domain and might require the City to incur expensive attorney fees and court costs.

It would have also slowed down the process and possibly kill the idea for a ball park. Additionally, the condition of City Hall and the price tag of $30 million to renovate would not be an overall benefit to the City. The $13 million appraised value of City Hall is comparable with the researchthat I did on other large downtown properties that include Wells Fargo, Chase and El Paso Electric buildings which were sold in the last five years and were appraised within the range of $12 – $15 million. This assessment supports the argument to use the City Hall site.

3. Negative Impact to Quality of Life Election
I am concerned that the ballpark opposition will harm the Quality of Life bond election. However, all the supporters of the ballpark project have indicated they will work to support the Quality of Life election. I would encourage all to put aside their differences and look at what is best for our entire community. The 2012 bond election includes projects for the entire City and will provide the funding to pay for the stadium without using taxpayer money. I urge everyone to support the bond to further the vision of having a vibrant quality of life for our citizens and those that come to visit our City.

For MountainStar Sports, it means the team can move ahead with the $20.5 million purchase of the team and preparing for a 2014 move,

“The members of MountainStar Sports Group join the people of El Paso in celebrating the vision and forward-thinking action taken by our Mayor and City Council members this week to commit to build a downtown ballpark for El Paso’s Triple-A baseball team,” said a press release issued by the local ownership group. “We thank Mayor John Cook for his strong leadership on this critical decision for El Paso’s future, and for honoring the Council’s decision to build a ballpark in Downtown El Paso.  We also thank the members of City Council for considering this issue so diligently and for ultimately standing by their commitment to El Paso, to the Pacific Coast League, Minor and Major League Baseball, and to our Group.

“This issue was controversial, and difficult questions were addressed on both sides.  At its conclusion, we believe this is a momentous step forward for El Paso.  As the ownership group, we pledge to bring a team to the City that El Pasoans will be proud of and a quality product they will enjoy.”

RELATED STORIES: El Paso ballpark approval squeaks throughPCL approves move of T-Padres to El Paso — if lease approvedRickey: El Paso could lose Triple-A team if ballpark not approved; MountainStar: Deal to bring Triple-A to El Paso could fall through if ballpark not approved; MountainStar, El Paso amend ballpark leaseEl Paso mayor: I can still scuttle ballpark dealPetition to halt El Paso ballpark submitted, but may be too lateEl Paso moves forward with ballpark planningEl Paso group pledges profits to charityEffort to thwart El Paso ballpark falls shortProtesters to “Occupy City Hall” over new El Paso ballparkHotel tax on El Paso ballot; no direct choice for votersWill El Paso ballpark spur downtown development? Insiders of mixed mindEl Paso opponents: We want ballpark on fall ballotPCL approves El Paso purchase of T-PadresFoster: Opposition to new El Paso ballpark not a surpriseOpposition to El Paso ballpark emergesHoteliers: We don’t want to pay for new El Paso ballparkEl Paso group: we’re one step closer to buying PCL teamPacific Coast League expected to decide El Paso bid for baseball this week; El Paso: Let’s sell Cohen Stadium to Tigua tribeT-Padres back in Kino Stadium for 2013One side effect of new El Paso ballpark: return of UTEP baseballEl Paso ownership group pitches PCLEl Paso approves ballpark for Triple-A teamFirst look: El Paso ballpark renderingsDiablos casualty of new El Paso ballparkDowntown ballpark planning moving forward in El PasoEl Paso to debate ballpark bond issueEl Paso group seeking downtown ballpark, T-PadsMoorad to Escondido: We need quick action on ballparkObstacles to new ballparks in California: not as bleak as expectedEscondido moving forward with business park on proposed ballpark propertyCity, not Moorad group, to acquire Escondido landEscondido mayor: Time to scrap new-ballpark planMoorad: Leaving Padres in Tucson a possibilityEscondido ballpark vote put off indefinitelyEscondido ballpark vote delayed;State government could kill Escondido T-Pods ballparkNew for 2011: Tucson PadresEscondido approves Triple-A ballpark — with reservationsMoorad group, Escondido sign MOU for new ballparkEscondido council fills vacancy in advance of ballpark voteCrunch time for new Escondido ballparkPadres raise ante in Escondido ballpark negotiationsEscondido ballpark vote delayed again; new council will decidePadres make it official: Beavers to Tucson in 2011Election shows mixed support for new Escondido ballparkTuesday elections could determine fate of BevosBevos to Tucson for 2011Escondido ballpark vote delayed after pollution found at siteFate of Bevos in the air until November, maybe DecemberPadres pitch one-sided lease to EscondidoEscondido: Show us some money, PadresEscondido in, San Marcos out of Bevos ballpark mix


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