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 through; PCL approves move of T-Padres to El Paso — if lease approved; Rickey: 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 lease; El Paso mayor: I can still scuttle ballpark deal; Petition to halt El Paso ballpark submitted, but may be too late; El Paso moves forward with ballpark planning; El Paso group pledges profits to charity; Effort to thwart El Paso ballpark falls short; Protesters to “Occupy City Hall” over new El Paso ballpark; Hotel tax on El Paso ballot; no direct choice for voters; Will El Paso ballpark spur downtown development? Insiders of mixed mind; El Paso opponents: We want ballpark on fall ballot; PCL approves El Paso purchase of T-Padres; Foster: Opposition to new El Paso ballpark not a surprise; Opposition to El Paso ballpark emerges; Hoteliers: We don’t want to pay for new El Paso ballpark; El Paso group: we’re one step closer to buying PCL team; Pacific Coast League expected to decide El Paso bid for baseball this week; El Paso: Let’s sell Cohen Stadium to Tigua tribe; T-Padres back in Kino Stadium for 2013; One side effect of new El Paso ballpark: return of UTEP baseball; El Paso ownership group pitches PCL; El Paso approves ballpark for Triple-A team; First look: El Paso ballpark renderings; Diablos casualty of new El Paso ballpark; Downtown ballpark planning moving forward in El Paso; El Paso to debate ballpark bond issue; El Paso group seeking downtown ballpark, T-Pads; Moorad to Escondido: We need quick action on ballpark; Obstacles to new ballparks in California: not as bleak as expected; Escondido moving forward with business park on proposed ballpark property; City, not Moorad group, to acquire Escondido land; Escondido mayor: Time to scrap new-ballpark plan; Moorad: Leaving Padres in Tucson a possibility; Escondido ballpark vote put off indefinitely; Escondido ballpark vote delayed;State government could kill Escondido T-Pods ballpark; New for 2011: Tucson Padres; Escondido approves Triple-A ballpark — with reservations; Moorad group, Escondido sign MOU for new ballpark; Escondido council fills vacancy in advance of ballpark vote; Crunch time for new Escondido ballpark; Padres raise ante in Escondido ballpark negotiations; Escondido ballpark vote delayed again; new council will decide; Padres make it official: Beavers to Tucson in 2011; Election shows mixed support for new Escondido ballpark; Tuesday elections could determine fate of Bevos; Bevos to Tucson for 2011; Escondido ballpark vote delayed after pollution found at site; Fate of Bevos in the air until November, maybe December; Padres pitch one-sided lease to Escondido; Escondido: Show us some money, Padres; Escondido in, San Marcos out of Bevos ballpark mix
Share your news with the baseball community. Send it to us at email@example.com.
Are you a subscriber to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.
Join Ballpark Digest on Facebook and on Twitter!
Follow Ballpark Digest on Google + and add us to your circles!