Citing its potentially harmful effect on nearby hotels, former El Paso mayor John Cook is expressing skepticism about constructing an arena at the convention center site.
As noted here on Monday, El Paso officials are taking a closer look at the possibility of building a proposed arena at the site of the Judson F. Williams Convention Center. In that scenario, the arena would be developed as part of an overhaul to the existing convention center, with city officials citing potential financial benefits of the plan.
That proposal is an alternative to the one that has been pursued in El Paso. This fall, the city revealed a plan to construct the arena south of the convention center, which drew backlash from area residents. That site comprises of numerous residences, and city officials were controversially given the authorization to use eminent domain in the process. In some corners, concerns have also been expressed that historic properties would be demolished as the result of the arena’s development.
The convention center plan, however, has some detractors, including Cook. His issue relates to timing, as he believes that the project would take the convention center out of the running for events for an extended period, in turning hurting the city’s downtown hotels. More from the El Paso Times:
Cook said the latest proposal could impact events that get booked years in advance regardless of whether the convention center is completely torn down or closed down during the arena construction.
“If you shut it down for two years, what are the Downtown hotels going to do?” Cook said. “It’s the tourist community that helps the Downtown hotel industry.”
Under a state program, the city is has been issuing hotel-occupancy tax rebates for hotels built at least 1,000 feet from a convention center. The city is in the process of establishing an incentive package for the renovation of the Camino Real Hotel and recently approved an incentive package for the Marriott Courtyard Urban hotel in Downtown.
“It’s a legal issue of will we be able to get those credits,” said Cook, who is serving as a consultant to El Paso lawyer Jim Scherr in the development of the Marriott Courtyard Urban hotel across from the ballpark.
Cook served as mayor from 2005-2013, a stretch that included the 2012 quality of bond referendum for the arena that was approved by the city’s voters. The project is expected to be debated by city officials at a meeting on Tuesday morning.