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Can baseball be an economic driver in El Paso?

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Jul 16 2012 03:03:42 AM CDT
Updated On: Feb 10 2014 12:24:37 PM CST

ABC-7 reporter Maria Garcia looks at Fresno, Calif. to see if baseball has been an economic driver.

EL PASO, Texas -

El Paso Mayor John Cook backs the City's plan to build a baseball stadium but he does have some reservations.

"I don't know enough about baseball to really understand if it's the great economic driver that everybody thinks it's going to be. I've got my fingers crossed," Cook said.

He supports it because the majority of City Council backed it by a 6-2 vote on June 26.

"Is it really an economic driver? I'm just having to rely on people who tell me that it is and trusting them," Cook said.

Fresno, Calif. is a city that has been in a similar position. They completed their baseball stadium for the Fresno Grizzlies - a Triple-A affiliate - 10 years ago.

The cost was $59 million. And there has not been builder's remorse.

"I think it's been a great asset for our community," said Elliott Balch, Fresno Downtown Revitalization Manager.

Fresno's stadium was part of a bigger plan to bring business and life to their dying, divested downtown.

"What the stadium brought to downtown was a really positive, vibrant anchor that would actually bring people and give people a reason to come downtown that they couldn't get anywhere else in the region," Balch said.

Balch said the plan worked. The stadium is the attraction for the 1.6-million people in the surrounding area.

But they do have one regret. The stadium's main entrance is on the other side of where most of the other downtown businesses are.

"The success of our stadium has been limited mainly by the design of our stadium and so if there were advice that we would give any other city looking at doing a downtown stadium, it would be that you would be very careful about how you design the places that people come in the places that people come into the stadium a stadium," Balch said.

MountainStar Sports Group, the El Paso ownership group trying to purchase and bring a Triple-A Baseball team to El Paso, said on Friday it has been asked to provide a Preliminary Application Review to the Pacific Coast League of Minor League Baseball.

The review is the next step in the PCL's numerous requirements necessary to secure a Triple-A team, and is contingent on the development of a new Downtown ballpark, MountainStar Sports said in a news release.

To make way for ballpark opening by spring of 2014, City Hall would have to be demolished by early 2013 with a 14-month construction schedule.

Projected cost of the ballpark would be no more than $50 million.

The PCL and its members reviewed materials relating to El Paso and the ownership group at its meetings in Buffalo last week where the Triple-A all star game and festivities took place. Mountain Star Sports is pursuing the Tucson Padres.

"We are very encouraged that the Board of the Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball asked us to provide the Preliminary Application Review as quickly as possible," MountainStar Sports said in its statement.

MountainStar Sports said the review could possibly reach PCL by next week.

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