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Downtown ballpark gets boost in support

By Matthew Smith
Published On: Sep 06 2012 09:11:45 PM CDT
Updated On: Dec 25 2012 05:16:48 PM CST

ABC-7's Matthew Smith reports.

El Paso, TEXAS -

After weeks of silence the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce has jumped into the heated debate involving the baseball team.

Thursday morning, the chamber passed a resolution in support of the proposed downtown ballpark. The resolution also called for its members to support the implementation of a Hotel Occupany Tax to pay for more than 70 percent of the cost of building the stadium.

"The GEPCC is in full support of the Quality of Life bond initiative, including the plans for downtown revitalization and redevelopment," reads a portion of the document.

That support is drawing a firestorm within the business community's ranks. While the Hotel-Motel Association does not appear to be in the majority, they've certainly been vocal about what the HOT tax would mean for their businesses. Many of the hotel and motel owners in the El Paso are members of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, they were hoping that the group wouldn't sway either way, taking into consideration the effects it would have on them.

"We're paid members," said Danny Padilla, the president of the Hotel-Motel Association in El Paso, "we actually pay to be a part of this organization. They're taking a side against our industry. I would think anyone that is part of the (GEPCC) would think twice about that also."

Richard Dayoub, the president of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, doesn't see the issue as black and white as Padilla. In his first sit-down interview after the GEPCC announced support for the downtown ballpark, Dayoub said those against the ballpark are blurring the lines.

"They're complaining about their taxes, and that their taxes are too high," said Dayoub. "But this is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy for them, and they don't realize it."

Dayoub believes that El Paso needs something big to change the culture of taxation in the city. He points to five of the top economic cities in Dallas, Fort Worth,San Antonio. Those cities, according to Dayoub, run with 65 percent of taxes being paid by corporations except for El Paso. In El Paso he says those numbers are flipped with residents shouldering the burden of taxes.

"There is a balance that occurs so there is growth that comes with it," said Dayoub. "For some reason, here we are the opposite situation."

Dayoub contends that more will need to happen in El Paso before corporations flock to El Paso the way they have in other large cities, but that the ballpark is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity that can kickstart that growth.

As for Padilla, he doesn't believe that Triple-A baseball will bring visitors to El Paso. Padilla, and many of the members of the Hotel-Motel Association believe that raising the HOT taxes to build a stadium will simply discourage people from traveling to El Paso regardless of the baseball attraction it would bring. Currently, El Paso ranks among the highest HOT taxes in the state of Texas and if the ballot measures passes in November, it would be the highest according to figures Padilla showed ABC-7 last month.
 

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