Sunday, June 24, 2012

City to Decide Fate of Downtown Ballpark This Week (Updated)

Update: City Council voted 6-2 to approve the plan for the new baseball stadium. Mountain Star Sports Group will now meet with Triple-A baseball officials to try and move forward with the purchase of the franchise. The City is now making plans to vacate City Hall by the end of the year to allow for demolition and construction starting in 2013. And voters will decide in November whether or not to raise the Hotel Occupancy Tax by 2% to help fund the new stadium.

Original Post:
A brand new baseball stadium could be up and running within two or three years at the current City Hall location. City Council will hear multiple agenda items on the possibility of constructing a 9,000 seat ballpark at its June 26, 2012 meeting. According to multiple news reports, a group of local business persons, organized under the name Mountain Star Sports Group, is on the verge of securing the purchase of a Triple-A baseball team, and the deal partly hinges on the City's commitment to building the stadium. The rumored ball club in question is the San Diego Padres farm team currently operating in Tucson.

Urban Design+, the firm tasked with studying the possibility of locating sports facilities in the Downtown area, will make presentations at the City Council meeting on the feasibility, costs, and benefits of moving forward with the deal to build a ballpark. Included in the numbers are $76 million in economic impact with an additional $22 million in labor income, with 450,000 in annual attendance and $4 million in ticket sales. The City would be responsible for building the ballpark, and would retain ownership throughout. Urban Design+ estimates that construction would not exceed $50 million and could be partially paid for by a 2% increase in the City's Hotel Occupancy Tax. Though that would make it the highest tax in the state, hotel rates would still be below other Texas cities.

The City, of course, would need to quickly find new space for City offices. The Consolidated Tax Office has already been moved to the Wells Fargo Building. But that still leaves the City in need of tens of thousands of square feet of space. According to the study by Urban Design+, the first phase would include finding 80 thousand square feet of temporary space for City offices. Phase Two would find a separate space specifically for Development Services, and the City would like to rehab older buildings to serve this function (possibly including the Roberts-Banner building as we reported here, or the adjacent Kress Building). The final phase would create a brand new Municipal Hall, either on land between Main and Franklin Avenues across from San Jacinto Plaza, the Luther Building on Campbell Street, or on City-owned land in the so-called government center nearby where current County and Federal offices are located.

In addition to baseball, the stadium would create the largest Downtown concert venue and could be used for additional events. Other sports events and gatherings could also take advantage of the ballpark. And since the venue will be City-owned, the economic benefit would be the City's. Surrounding areas would also most likely benefit from new development, as seen in other cities where stadiums are built downtown.
City Hall site benefits as indicated by the Urban Design + study.

Assuming expected approval by City Council, the purchase of the Triple-A franchise should get the green light from baseball officials within the next few weeks.

City Council Meeting Agenda:

City May Demolish City Hall for Ballpark