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Texas AG: Sports Acceptable at El Paso Entertainment Facility

Arena Digest

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed with city officials that sports is an acceptable use of a proposed $180-million downtown El Paso entertainment facility, as the matter may end up before the Texas Supreme Court.

The design and use of the multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility, as approved by voters in a 2012 referendum, has been challenged in court by opponents for a variety of reasons, including a claimed status for the site as a historic district and the lack of sports being specified as a permitted use on the ballot.

That ballot measure did specify that a bond issue would fund a “multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility.” The original lawsuit says that the specified use on the ballot did not allow for configuration as a sporting facility–an argument that held up in the initial trial, but one later overturned by an appeals court.

With the possibility that the Texas Supreme Court could take up an appeal of the appeals-court decision, Texas AG Paxton has weighed in with an opinion that supports the city. From the El Paso Times:

Paxton and his office filed support of the city with the court on Wednesday just a day after the City Council voted to reject historic preservationist Max Grossman and retired Houston oilman J.P. Bryan’s offer to reach a settlement. 

The attorney general says the ordinance for the 2012 Quality of Life Bond election gave the city the authority to build a facility that could host performing arts and sporting events.

“Here, the plain language of the ordinance is broad and the court properly construed it to include sports as a form of entertainment and to authorize the city to construct a facility suitable for, among other purposes, sports,” the attorney general’s filing stated.

As noted, the arena is opposed by historic preservationist Max Grossman and retired Houston oilman J.P. Bryan, who made an offer to settle that included renovation of older buildings deemed historic and a new arena, built with private funds, outside of downtown El Paso near by the city airport. That offer was rejected by the El Paso City Council for a variety of reasons, including the fact that no one is stepping forward to privately finance an arena out by the airport, where it is much more likely to fail when compared to a downtown events center.

There’s no guarantee the Texas Supreme Court will take up the appeal.

If used for sports, a new El Paso venue could be a draw for tournaments and other sporting events, or perhaps even a full-time professional team.

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