Grantland, because it’s Grantland, has a long, rambling article this week about the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas‘ new stadium, which is costing taxpayers at least $62 million, required the city to blow up its City Hall to make way for it, and is so far behind schedule that the team had to start the season on a 24-game road trip. For a tl;dr version, though, the highlights are all in the quotes:
- Branch Rickey III, grandson of the guy Harrison Ford played, thinks the whole thing is hilarious: “A community willing to blow up their city hall! Oh, god. In order to bring minor league baseball to town! You can’t make that up.” Branch Rickey III is president of the Pacific Coast League, the minor baseball league that is benefiting from the project.
- Rickey says fans hate old stadiums because “they were in the wrong section of town,” because “you could smell the restrooms before you opened the doors,” and because “there were no baby-changing stations.” El Paso’s previous stadium was built in 1990, ten minutes from the site of the new stadium.
- Rickey is really, really proud of the fact that the teams in his league are managing to sell anything other than watching baseball: “Ninety percent of our fans, when they leave the stadium after the game, can’t even recall the final score.”
- Jim Paul, the owner of the former El Paso Diablos who got the 1990 stadium built (with public money), says he got the idea when the Richmond Braves got public money out of their city for a new home. “When we saw what he did, everyone in the minor leagues began thinking, Hey, maybe we can do that, too.” He came up with a proposal for $6 million in public funding for a new stadium while drinking beers with two city councilmembers. Nine years later, he sold the team for 100 times what he paid for it to new owners who immediately moved it to Springfield, Missouri.
It’s a story that could be told about pretty much any small city in America — minus the City Hall implosion — but it is kind of remarkable to hear how even some of the principals involved think it’s hilarious. Of course, it’s easy to laugh when you come away with a 10,000% profit and somebody else is footing the bills.
Anyway, it’s still way better than the puff piece on El Paso that the New York Times real estate section did last year. Speaking of things that you wonder if the people involved think it’s hilariously absurd.