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El Paso ballpark approval squeaks through

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Proposed El Paso Ballpark

By a narrow 4-3 margin, the El Paso City Council approved a proposed lease with MountainStar Sports for a new $50 million downtown ballpark for the relocating Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), but don't assume the issue is settled -- yet.

After hours and hours of public input on the new ballpark, the vote came along the exact lines everyone expected going in, with Rep. Emma Acosta switching her vote to no, as promised; the original ballpark proposal passed by a 6-2 margin, and with the absence of Rep. Steve Ortega (out on his honeymoon) and the switch of Acosta, the 4-3 vote was no surprise. Proposed amendments that would have put the ballpark to a public vote also failed by the same 4-3 margin.

So we have approval of a revised lease -- for now. Mayor John Cook has 72 hours to either veto the lease or let it go, which would authorize the city manager to sign a lease with MountainStar for a new downtown ballpark opening in 2014. A 2 percentage point rise in the local hotel/motel tax would pay for most of the ballpark; the rest would come from rent and ticket surcharges. The rise in the hotel/motel tax would be subject to approval in the November elections, but as the lease is written now the city would need to find an alternative funding method should it be rejected.

Opposition to the ballpark came mainly from two groups: senior citizens against  any large city expenditure and conservatives questioning whether the city should be in the ballpark business; support came from business leaders and younger citizens who see the ballpark as contributing to the city's quality of life. Many also opposed tearing down City Hall to make room for the new ballpark, while others pointed out the city's master plan calls for the demolition of City Hall in the next four years. We listened to most of the 140 citizens weighing in on the matter; there were thoughtful comments on both sides, as well as a few Abe Simpsons and a few starry-eyed optimists.

We expect Cook to receive lots of pressure from both sides. He tends to be on both sides of an issue; twice now he's threatened a veto, only to come along the following day and walking back the threat, saying his concerns had been addressed. With only five votes supporting the ballpark (the four voting yes today plus Ortega), a veto would stand; it takes six to override. If Cook vetoes, then MountainStar and ballpark proponents will need to find a way to finance the ballpark -- if the PCL doesn't pull the permissions necessary to buy and move the team. So, basically, the future of PCL ball in El Paso relies on the decision of a single man, at this point.

RELATED STORIES: PCL approves move of T-Padres to El Paso -- if lease approved; Rickey: El Paso could lose Triple-A team if ballpark not approved; MountainStar: Deal to bring Triple-A to El Paso could fall through if ballpark not approved; MountainStar, El Paso amend ballpark leaseEl Paso mayor: I can still scuttle ballpark dealPetition to halt El Paso ballpark submitted, but may be too lateEl Paso moves forward with ballpark planningEl Paso group pledges profits to charityEffort to thwart El Paso ballpark falls shortProtesters to "Occupy City Hall" over new El Paso ballparkHotel tax on El Paso ballot; no direct choice for votersWill El Paso ballpark spur downtown development? Insiders of mixed mindEl Paso opponents: We want ballpark on fall ballotPCL approves El Paso purchase of T-PadresFoster: Opposition to new El Paso ballpark not a surpriseOpposition to El Paso ballpark emergesHoteliers: We don't want to pay for new El Paso ballparkEl Paso group: we're one step closer to buying PCL teamPacific Coast League expected to decide El Paso bid for baseball this week; El Paso: Let's sell Cohen Stadium to Tigua tribeT-Padres back in Kino Stadium for 2013One side effect of new El Paso ballpark: return of UTEP baseballEl Paso ownership group pitches PCLEl Paso approves ballpark for Triple-A teamFirst look: El Paso ballpark renderingsDiablos casualty of new El Paso ballparkDowntown ballpark planning moving forward in El PasoEl Paso to debate ballpark bond issueEl Paso group seeking downtown ballpark, T-PadsMoorad to Escondido: We need quick action on ballparkObstacles to new ballparks in California: not as bleak as expectedEscondido moving forward with business park on proposed ballpark propertyCity, not Moorad group, to acquire Escondido landEscondido mayor: Time to scrap new-ballpark planMoorad: Leaving Padres in Tucson a possibilityEscondido ballpark vote put off indefinitelyEscondido ballpark vote delayed;State government could kill Escondido T-Pods ballparkNew for 2011: Tucson PadresEscondido approves Triple-A ballpark -- with reservationsMoorad group, Escondido sign MOU for new ballparkEscondido council fills vacancy in advance of ballpark voteCrunch time for new Escondido ballparkPadres raise ante in Escondido ballpark negotiationsEscondido ballpark vote delayed again; new council will decidePadres make it official: Beavers to Tucson in 2011Election shows mixed support for new Escondido ballparkTuesday elections could determine fate of BevosBevos to Tucson for 2011Escondido ballpark vote delayed after pollution found at siteFate of Bevos in the air until November, maybe DecemberPadres pitch one-sided lease to EscondidoEscondido: Show us some money, PadresEscondido in, San Marcos out of Bevos ballpark mix

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