El Paso hoteliers call for changes in county Coliseum contract, negotiations continue

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Local hotel managers are asking the county for changes they say will lead to more revenue for the county through more oversight and three-year intervals included in contracts between the county and coliseum operators.

Marco Ortega, president of the El Paso Hotel and Lodging Commission, told El Paso County Commissioners on Monday that local hoteliers hope to see added provisions in a new contract for coliseum management.

Monday’s discussion was spurred by a letter sent to the commissioner’s court by the association. An agreement between the county and El Paso Sports Commission allowing the organization to operate the coliseum ends on Sept. 30. A decision in the matter is not expected to be made until the Fall.

The association is asking the county to create an advisory board, an electronic bidding process for tourism events and for detailed reports on hotel occupancy tax (HOT) revenue given to a coliseum manager for operations and maintenance.

Hoteliers are also calling on the county to reduce the amount of HOT taxes provided to the coliseum so those funds can be used on direct marketing initiatives instead.

Ortega said the changes will help fill an estimated 11,000 hotel rooms throughout the county, which will lead to more revenue.

“The more taxes we generate, the better return on investment the county has,” Ortega said.

Brian Kennedy, the sports commission’s chair, has claimed his organization has helped generate $123 million in total economic results from sports tourism between 2003 and 2019.

The non-profit has been in charge of running the coliseum since 2003 and has provided a space for various acts and performances throughout the years. In that time, the contract between the county and sports commission has been amended four times.

Kennedy said he received an email from Ortega requesting information. They later talked about tourism and Ortega mentioned he had spoken with members of the commissioners court about the contract, Kennedy added.

Kennedy told commissioners that he and his organization are firmly against implementing an electronic bidding system because it is a referral system that rewards a few hotel properties.

“We are not a show for directing business to certain properties,” Kennedy said. “Our system is to allow the event clients to make their own decisions because it is the most fair and equitable way to operate.”

Kennedy claimed Ortega had no other suggestions and was surprised to learn about the various recommendations the association had in the letter to the county. Some of the suggestions would violate a non-profit’s responsibilities under Internal Revenue Service requirements, he added.

“There’s a lot of demands in the EPHLA letter. Some of them are already being done,” Kennedy said. “There was two bidders when we were awarded this contract. One was the El Paso Sports Commission and the other was the El Paso Hotel Motel Association.”

Jim Paul, who helped manage Dudley Field at Cohen Stadium and the Buzzards hockey team, called into Monday’s meeting to share his thoughts on the county’s agreement with the sports commission.

He praised Kennedy and his staff for their management of the facility and mentioned that he has become well-known in the entertainment industry.

“He knows what he’s doing and has a tremendous amount of respect,” Paul said.

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