That Grantland article about the El Paso Chihuahuas stadium, in selected quotes

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.

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El Paso stadium so awesome it created economic growth before it was even planned

There’s an old rule that the best way to read the New York Times is backwards, because the articles generally hide the most important information at the end. So let’s try that with yesterday’s article on the new Triple-A baseball stadium being built in El Paso:

  • El Paso is in the “very early stages” of redeveloping its downtown, according to a local real estate executive.
  • Downtown El Paso is already on the upswing, thanks to Mexicans from Ciudad Juárez across the border who visit to avoid rising violence in their home city.
  • “Local investors have been transforming disused downtown properties into rental apartments, restaurants, bars, retail shops and office space for several years.” This “was going to happen” with or without a baseball stadium, according to one local developer.
  • The $50 million baseball stadium to bring the current Tucson Padres (as yet unnamed in El Paso) to town, for which the city is spending $35 million and tearing down its City Hall, won’t even open until next year.
  • The headline: “Baseball Stadium Bolsters El Paso’s Resurgence.”

Yup. Backwards.

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El Paso approves hotel-motel tax hike for Triple-A stadium

My apologies: In yesterday’s discussion of stadium-related election results, I neglected to include El Paso, where voters approved an increase in the hotel/motel tax rate to pay about $35 million towards a new $50 million stadium to bring the current Tucson Padres to town. I haven’t been able to find figures for how much was spend on the pro and anti campaigns to test the 100-to-1 rule, though there is this lovely story about the city manager getting in hot water for calling stadium opponents “crazies” in an email.

For a minor-league stadium deal, the El Paso one is crazily complex: The city will have to tear down its City Hall to make way for the stadium, which means city government will need to pay about $30 million to acquire new buildings to do its business in. Also, the city won’t share in any stadium revenue, but will get rent payments and a 10-cent-per-ticket admissions tax. How much El Paso taxpayers will get stuck with at the end of the day, in other words, will depend less on the hotel/motel tax approved yesterday and more on the picayune details of the lease — any chance we can get Judith Grant Long to add an appendix?

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