On September 20, Mayor John Cook issued the following statement regarding the downtown ballpark project:
I have given this issue much thought and soul searching and have come to the conclusion that it is not in the best interest of the City of El Paso for the Mayor to use his veto power. Based upon the information I have been provided by the City Manager and the investor group, I believe any delay might cause us to lose this opportunity.
The reasons for my decision are as follows:
1. No voter approval on Quality of Life projects
I was troubled by the fact we are overturning a long standing policy of securing voter approval before proceeding with Quality of Life projects. The City Manager and staff have made the argument that the ballpark is really an economic development project and deserves to be treated as such. The City of El Paso regularly approves economic development projects without voter approval. Further, I was reminded of the fact that past signature quality of life projects were done without voter approval, such as the Plaza Theater and the El Paso Art Museum and both are gems in our Downtown and successful.
2. Demolition of City Hall
After researching possible sites, an alternate site for the baseball stadium could have been the buildings south of the Convention Center all the way to Paisano Drive which includes 38 parcels of land owned by 22 different owners for a total land value of $25 million. The selection of this site would have created the need to use eminent domain and might require the City to incur expensive attorney fees and court costs.
It would have also slowed down the process and possibly kill the idea for a ball park. Additionally, the condition of City Hall and the price tag of $30 million to renovate would not be an overall benefit to the City. The $13 million appraised value of City Hall is comparable with the research that I did on other large downtown properties that include Wells Fargo, Chase and El Paso Electric buildings which were sold in the last five years and were appraised within the range of $12 - $15 million. This assessment supports the argument to use the City Hall site.
3. Negative Impact to Quality of Life Election
I am concerned that the ballpark opposition will harm the Quality of Life bond election. However, all the supporters of the ballpark project have indicated they will work to support the Quality of Life election. I would encourage all to put aside their differences and look at what is best for our entire community. The 2012 bond election includes projects for the entire City and will provide the funding to pay for the stadium without using taxpayer money. I urge everyone to support the bond to further the vision of having a vibrant quality of life for our citizens and those that come to visit our City.