POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012 - 10:47pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 6:07pm
EL PASO — Batter up! El Paso is getting a Triple-A baseball team.
The vote was close, and public comment stretched on for six hours, but in the end City Council voted 4 to 3 in favor of a new stadium to take over City Hall's location.
In fact, so many people turned out, the fire marshal was called and extra rooms were opened to accommodate for overflow.
"This is a great opportunity for that, and the time is now," said one speaker.
"I think we should be allowed to vote for this.. one way or the other," said another.
After six hours of listening to public comment, Council finally took action.
Representatives Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland, Ann Morgan Lilly, and Michael Noe voted yes to signing a lease with the Mountain Star Sports group, that would allow for the demolition of City Hall and the construction of the stadium in its place.
Representatives Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson, and Eddie Holguin voted no on the lease agreement.
"Nothing surprises me. Obviously council is very arrogant, (is) going to shove this down the throats of the citizens of El Paso, whether they want it or not," said Rep. Eddie Holguin.
Representative Steve Ortega was not present.
Prior to the big vote, the council also voted 4 to 3 against considering an ordinance brought by baseball stadium opponents to undo a June 26th vote by the council in favor of the project.
"I'm excited, I'm relieved that we got through this with a positive vote. I was confident that we would, but it's nice to have it all behind us," said Paul Foster, one of the investors of the Mountain Star Sports Group and owner of Western Refining. "Hopefully by this time next week, we'll own the team."
The only council member to change her mind since June was Emma Acosta.
But now, even after her vote against the park Tuesday, she wants El Pasoans to support the hotel occupancy (HOT) tax come November's election.
"Since it already passed, it doesn't make any sense for me to say, 'don't vote for it', and then have the citizens pay 72 percent of the cost of that baseball stadium. It just doesn't make sense," she said.
Then came the vote on City Hall's relocation. Representatives voted 4 to 3 to approve the contract of purchase, which includes two buildings and one parking area for the proposed stadium.
NOT A DONE DEAL
While stadium supporters are certainly celebrating tonight, this still isn't a done deal.
Mayor John Cook can still veto the project.
Here's how the process works.
First, the Mayor has five days to provide, in writing, his reasoning behind a veto.
Then, to override the mayor's veto, 6 of the 8 representatives would have to vote in favor of the original ordinance, in which case, the ordinance would become law.
We spoke with Mayor Cook Tuesday evening. He says he plans to make a decision by Thursday morning.
THE NEXT STEPS
If the mayor does not veto the lease agreement, the next step will be for city council to finalize property deals the city needs to acquire in order to move city hall departments, come up with designs and cost, and set a timeline, said City Manager Joyce Wilson.
Wilson expects all departments to be out of the current city hall by March 2013.
As for the stadium, organizing a project oversight committee is the priority, said Wilson.
Then, coming up with a final design and hiring an architect, and of course starting construction, will follow, she said.
Prior statements show that the Triple-A team needs to be ready to play ball come the start of the 2014 season.