Downtown El Paso Ballpark: A Potential Strikeout?
POSTED: Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 9:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 11:42am
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — The El Paso baseball stadium deal was approved in September, 2012. Not everyone was happy about how it was decided.
Some El Pasoans believed it should have gone to the voters.
People packed El Paso City Council chambers last year to voice their opposition and support.
Miami-Dade residents experienced the same growing pains that El Paso is feeling now, when their county commissioners approved a private-public partnership to build a new major league baseball stadium in 2009. Residents also believe it should have gone to a vote, and also packed county commissioners meetings to make sure they were heard.
The Marlins stadium was an effort to revitalize the Little Havana area in Miami, much like the El Paso ballpark is part of a larger effort to revitalize downtown.
Miami taxpayers weren't exactly happy about footing part of the $535 million dollar stadium.
In an effort to curb the cost to local residents, Miami-Dade county commissioners applied their hotel tax to the funding. That was the same action taken by the City of El Paso.
Miami residents challenged the ballpark in court, and lost.
A group of El Pasoans led by former El Paso Mayor Ray Salazar filed a lawsuit to put a halt on ballpark plans in El Paso, and even filed paperwork to recall city council representative Cortney Niland.
Salazar's recall efforts failed, but in Miami, residents successfully recalled Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez over ballpark spending.
The Miami Marlins ballpark was complete in April, 2012.
It opened to a sold out crowd, but it is the only sell out the team has seen since.
Within the first week after opening day, attendance started to drop.
Without ticket sales, the stadium that was expected to attract tourism, strengthen the economy and revitalize an area of town, wasn't bringing in enough ticket sales to keep its promise.
Those promises are very similar to what is expected of El Paso's Downtown ballpark.
Part of the problem in Miami is a losing team. That is something that MountainStar Sports Group said likely will not be a problem with the El Paso team.
"If you look at the team that's in Tucson right now, they're in first place, and that's not to guarantee any playoff promises," said Brad Taylor, General Manager for El Paso Triple-A.
Win or lose, MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford said he thinks El Paso's stadium will be a success.
“We're not a baseball team per say, we're not in the baseball business, we're in the entertainment business," said Ledford.
Another problem in Miami is affordability. Some Florida residents believe their ballpark is just too expensive. Something that is not expected to be a problem in El Paso.
“We're very cognizant of having tickets that we feel are going to be priced for almost everybody to enjoy. Our motto, we'd like to be able to start somewhere at the 5 or 6 dollar range," said Taylor.
Only time will tell what the outcome will be for the yet to be named El Paso AAA baseball team and the downtown stadium. It could be a potential strikeout, or it could be the best thing the city has ever seen.
"The level of play here, it's going to be the highest El Paso has ever seen. It's triple A, it's next to the majors," said Taylor.
Taylor said the biggest difference between Major League Baseball and Triple-A ball is the experience they provide. The majors are more focused on players and winning games, whereas Triple-A baseball is more family oriented, and their biggest star is the mascot. For El Paso, that mascot has yet to be determined.