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City reevaluates fate of downtown El Paso arena

Arena DigestAs the city awaits the results of a new feasibility study regarding finances for a new downtown El Paso arena, opponents of the project once again propose scrapping the venue and spend the existing funds on other city needs.

With the arrival of three new council members today, opponents of the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center in El Paso’s downtown Duranguito neighborhood aren’t wasting any time to once again attempt to stop the project. Voters already approved the project, with a broadened mission since. We’ve seen lawsuits and attempts to redo the results of the referendum.

Time may be running out for construction to actually begin, much less allow a final design and operating game. The council today will hear the results of a feasibility study, laying out three options regarding capacity and construction budgets. When first approved by voters in 2012 (!), a budget of $180 million was set aside. Now, depending on the scale of the project, $180 million (minus any funds used for design and land acquisition) is more than adequate for a city the size of El Paso–Savannah spent $165 million on a 9,500-seat arena and performing-arts complex–but the rationale from city councilors seeking to kill the downtown El Paso arena project is that any new construction would cost more than the city can afford. From the El Paso Times:

El Paso city Reps. Joe Molinar and Alexsandra Annello proposed an agenda item for the Jan. 3, 2023, council meeting, which calls for the city to “re-evaluate and repurpose as appropriate the now-insufficient funds for constructing a new Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center,” planned in Downtown El Paso.

Additionally, the item further states that no buildings within the area should be “condemned or demolished” and council should “begin examining the use of these funds specific to what the voters approved within existing city facilities that may be renovated or upgraded to honor the will of the voters.”

The original agenda item called for arena construction to be abandoned – the only official with authority to alter an agenda item after the submission deadline is the mayor.