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Would a new arena be worth possible $180-million price tag?

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Nov 02 2012 04:41:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 10 2014 07:08:14 PM CDT

Quality of life bond: Is a $180 million arena needed?

EL PASO, Texas -

(Nov. 2012 story)

A proposed Downtown arena could have up to 17,000 seats and cost taxpayers $180 million.

Some wonder if that price tat is worth another venue.

Madonna is going across the country on an arena tour and not coming to El Paso because the local arenas don't have the seating capacity necessary for a show like hers.

The City of El Paso commissioned studies that show a new arena's first-year attendance will be more than 340,000 people with 62 events. That's about 5,500 attendees per event that first year.

The Don Haskins Center has 12,000 seats - nearly double the amount of attendees expected at a new arena's events.

"the Don Haskins Center is essentially made for basketball," said Deputy City Manager Bill Studer.

He said that's why it's not conducive to big arena-oriented concerts and performers looking for multi level seating and better staging.

And though it seats nearly 12,000 not all the seats are facing one direction so big sections often have to be closed off during concerts, making the capacity significantly smaller.
   
Studer said the first year attendance estimates aren't meant for the lifespan of the arena.

"Over time the arena will become more successful and host more things," Studer said. "That's the whole premise of why you build something like that. It increases its attendance from year to year."

City Rep. Steve Ortega said it "goes back to the debate that this community was having with the Plaza Theatre and many people were saying some of the same things you're hearing right now. 'It's too expensive. No one's going to go there. Are we really going to attract events now that we already have at the Abraham Chavez.' And I think what the community has learned is that has been a resounding success and there are events coming to El Paso right now that previously were bypassing our community.

The proposed arena doesn't have an anchor tenant, like a professional sports team. Other arenas around the country, like the one in Oklahoma City, were also built without one.
     
And in fact, in that case, an NBA team looking for a home moved in to that arena when it was looking for a home.
     
Also important to note is the the arena's $180-million price tag includes possible land acquisition and Studer said there is a possibility it'll cost less.
     
If it does, then the City says it won't take out all the debt.

(Nov. 2012 story)

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