General fund subsidies for the El Paso Chihuahuas‘ (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) Southwest University Park are on track to end in 2021, two years ahead of the previous estimate.
Southwest University Park generates revenue through a variety of sources, including hotel and sales taxes, along with the team’s annual rent and parking revenues. As part of the original fund plan, the City of El Paso anticipated that those revenues would not be enough initially to cover annual debt payments on the ballpark, resulting in the use of general fund subsidies to offset the cost. It was at one point expected that the general fund subsidies would be required until 2023, but city officials now anticipate that they will not be needed after 2021.
A similar forecast was presented last year, and officials confirmed recently that that remains the case. Factors for the accelerated timeline include better-than-expected revenue from the Southwest University Park, along with savings generated by a 2016 refinancing of the ballpark’s debt. More from KTSM.com:
“One of the great things that we’re able to show the council is that from the original modeling done in 2014 to what we’re seeing today is that we were actually able to trim down the number of years that the general funds subsidy is going to be required,” Chief Financial Officer Robert Cortinas said.
Cortinas told KTSM better-than-expected revenue generated at the ballpark, combined with a refinancing of the debt a few years ago, means the City will be able to pay itself back sooner than expected, “Combined with the hotel occupancy tax and team revenue, essentially trimmed down by about 2 years of requirement of the general fund subsidy.”
City staff shared the funds that will be reimbursed into the general fund could be used for other projects around the city, or future improvements at the ballpark itself.
Back in 2012, voters signed off on a two-percent increase in the city’s hotel occupancy tax in order to help finance the ballpark’s construction, with the facility opening for the Chihuahuas in 2014. Southwest University Park’s event schedule will become busier this year, as professional soccer’s El Paso Locomotive FC (USL Championship)–owned by Chihuahuas owner MountainStar Sports Group–will begin its inaugural season this month.
RELATED STORIES: Report: Southwest University Park Subsidies Could End by 2021