Friday, August 19, 2016

Downtown Arena Aims for 2020 Opening

By Armando Landin
The Downtown Arena in El Paso could open in early 2020, according to a contract the City will consider next week.

The Downtown 2015 Plan for El Paso (announced in 2006) envisioned a multipurpose arena with nearby hotel, retail, and restaurant uses, as seen in this concept drawing. (Downtown 2015 Plan)

The El Paso City Council is set to consider approving a "Owner’s Representative Services" contract for the $180 million Downtown Arena that would essentially assign a management company to the project.

This contract includes managing the Arena project through all of its phases, officially known as the Multi-Purpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center. This includes site selection, choosing the design team, and overseeing construction.

International Facilities Group (IFG) of Chicago submitted the favored bid, a contract worth $4.76 million. IFG served in the same role for development and construction of Southwest University Park in El Paso, home of the Triple-A Chihuahuas baseball team.

ECM, LLC, of El Paso is listed as subconsultant on the contract.

According to the tentative contract, the entire project should take 39 months, or just over three years to complete. This would now put the opening date in late 2019 or early 2020. This timeline is preliminary and could be extended due to land acquisition delays.

The peach colored areas on this map represent surface parking lots in Downtown El Paso. The analysis was done as part of a study looking for sites for the future Arena project. (City of El Paso)

Voters approved the Arena project as part of the Quality of Life election in 2012, the largest single project on the ballot.

In January 2015, HKS, Inc. of Dallas presented its findings regarding a study commissioned by the City to determine possible sites for the Arena and the most feasible size. The firm did not present specific sites but did highlight the large amount of surface parking lots spread throughout Downtown.

HKS did recommended a seating capacity of 13,250 for basketball games and 14,500 for "center-stage" events for the Arena. In comparison, the Don Haskins Center at the University of Texas at El Paso seats 12,000 for basketball games and 12,567 for "center-stage" events.

The Las Plazas Arts District in Downtown El Paso is most likely the City's desired location for the planned Arena, though no site has been selected. (City of El Paso)

Then in September 2015, the City selected two law firms with expertise in arena projects to assist in acquiring land for the Arena project. No possible sites have been announced by the City nor a concrete timeline.

"Because of the complexity and uniqueness of this project, it is premature to commit to an exact date for a groundbreaking or ribbon cutting for the facility," the City's website states.

City Council will consider awarding the contract at its August 23, 2016 meeting.