Two well-known El Paso businessmen have joined together to pursue the purchase of a Triple-A Baseball team and bring it to El Paso. Alongside the group, the El Paso City Council will meet Tuesday for a decision on a proposed stadium in downtown El Paso, likely on the site which currently houses City Hall.
The group, formed as MountainStar Sports Group, LLC, consists of Woody L. Hunt, Chairman of Hunt Companies, Inc., and Paul L. Foster, Executive Chairman of Western Refining, Inc. Other members of the group include Joshua Hunt, Senior Vice President of Hunt Companies and Managing Director of Hunt Holdings, and Alejandra de la Vega Foster, President of Almacenes Distribuidores de la Frontera. All four reside in El Paso.
The group has been working for over two years to bring a professionally-affiliated sports team to El Paso. They have engaged two prominent sports business consulting firms to assist with the effort: California-based Barrett Sports Group, LLC, a sports management consulting firm, and Perfect Game Ventures, LLC, a sports advisory and management firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Barrett Sports Group is well-respected for its work with municipalities and private investors around the country in securing sports teams and planning, financing, and developing sports and entertainment venues. Barrett Sports Group is led by founder Dan Barrett, a sports industry veteran of over 22 years. Perfect Game Ventures founder and CEO Alan Ledford has 24 years of experience in Major and Minor League Baseball, and helped build the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats into one of Minor League Baseball's most successful franchises. He served as president and general manager for that club until last year, when he left to start his own company. Ledford was named Baseball America's Executive of the Year in 2006.
“El Paso is ready for professionally-affiliated sports,” said Josh Hunt. “A Triple-A baseball team and a new ballpark would be a tremendous quality-of-life opportunity for the City, as well as a catalyst for downtown revitalization and a boost to economic development.” He added, “We believe a Triple-A team would be well-received by residents, and we intend to make it a true community asset and El Paso’s team.”
City staff will present plans for a state-of-the-art ballpark to be built downtown, to be voted on during next week’s City Council meeting. Hunt said that securing a Triple-A Baseball team for El Paso hinges on having a ballpark that would be approved by Minor League Baseball. “We cannot bring a team to El Paso without having a state-of-the-art ballpark in place or a firm commitment to build one,” said Hunt. He stated that Minor League Baseball is stringent about their policies to have its teams play in safe, fun, and family-friendly ballparks, and for the most part, those venues are downtown sites.”
Hunt said that there are only thirty Triple-A Baseball teams in the country, and cities compete to attract these franchises. “El Paso must be ready to step up to the level of Triple-A Baseball, and that means having a new ballpark in a good location, downtown.”
Hunt said City staff and their outside planning experts determined the best location for the new ballpark would be on the site of the present City Hall. City offices would move to another location, yet to be determined. “Part of the rationale to put the ballpark on that site is because it would offer convenient access to and from I-10, and be an anchor of the Garden District and Union Depot entertainment areas,” said Hunt.
Dan Barrett, principal of Barrett Sports Group, said El Paso is a prime candidate for a Triple-A Baseball club. “Our preliminary research indicates that there is a significant opportunity in El Paso for a professional sports team,” said Barrett. “We think affiliated baseball would be supported in El Paso if a new ballpark were developed in downtown.”
Barrett also said that a ballpark in El Paso’s downtown would be a significant step forward for the City. “As evidenced by numerous examples throughout the country, the development of a new ballpark in a downtown area can act as a catalyst for revitalization and create economic activity and jobs, as well as contribute to the quality of life in communities.” Barrett added, “What we have seen in the El Paso market is very favorable.”
Alan Ledford, founder of Perfect Game Ventures, said that El Paso historically has been a baseball city. “In looking at the El Paso region’s viability for Triple-A baseball, we noted that El Pasoans truly love their baseball,” said Ledford. “It’s a great baseball market, with many of the attributes necessary for the long-term success of a Minor League team.” Ledford added that those attributes include local ownership, business support, limited sports and entertainment competition, and the need for affordable family entertainment.
“We have an opportunity to acquire and have a team playing in El Paso as soon as 2014,” said Hunt. “There are numerous steps we must take in the process. As soon as we are able to finalize the acquisition of a team, and receive approval from Minor League Baseball and its governing bodies, we will be excited to formally announce El Paso’s new Triple-A baseball team. Until that time, we must respect the process established by Baseball and maintain the confidentiality of any ongoing discussions.”