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.


  1. This downtown arena project is my most favorite topic other than the next downtown skyscraper! However I sure hope that before the city breaks ground to build it,that the city comes up with more money for the arena.
    Considering that we already have the Don Haskins Center with a 12,000 seating capacity,and yet El Paso can't attract larger events due to it's small size.
    Not even the NCAA would hold, say a Sweet 16 tournament in the new downtown arena if it's going to be less than 12 thousand seat capacity.
    I hope that someone in city hall is listening and does something to make things right! like building an 18,000 seat arena.
    The way things go around this city is that they build nice things only to realize later that they built them too small.Like when they built the County Court House back in the early 1990's.
    The original County CourtHouse was slated at 26 stories tall,then they scaled it down to 18 stories. Then Goofed again when the made it smaller at 12 stories tall.
    A few years ago County commissioners were talking about building another courthouse,but since then they must have given up.
    Had they done it right the first time,there wouldn't be any need for a future courthouse,so same goes for the new downtown arena with the city
    Please don't repeat the same mistake the county did in the 90's.

    1. Yeap! that's the plan and will be finding out this month in August who is going to develope it,how big and how tall.City council will vote on who gets to develope and build it,there are 5 contestants that are bidding on this proposal.Maybe by tomorrow when I receive my copy of the El Paso Inc there will be some update news about this SKYSCRAPER!

    2. Oh wow! Is there a link to read more about this?

    3. Not really! No Link, just news coming out from city council since the city wants a developer to come up with some plans. To develop the parking city lot across city hall on Campbell Street downtown.
      As soon as there is an announcement about this,I'm more than sure Mr Landin will post it here on El Paso Development News.So keep reading this website from time to time for the latest news about this new development.

  2. Why are we building an arena that can accommodate slightly more individuals than what the Don Haskins center can currently accommodate? What a waste of tax payers money. When is this city going to start planning for the future and building projects (an arena in this instance) that can accommodate greater capacities in the future? Build it right and smart the first time so we don't have to build it accordingly in the future. It's time we start thinking like a big city that we are. El Paso is no longer that dusty little desert town in west Texas. #buildforthefuture

    1. And I also agree with you 100% and glad that we both are on the same page and happy to meet you?
      According to HKS, they recommended that the arena will seat 13,250 for basketball games,Hmm! leaves me scratching my head.There's already a 13,000 + seating arena 40 miles north in Las Cruces. I wish that the previous city council administration of former Mayor John Cook. Would have asked for more money before the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Issue was voted on. It's true that their hearts were in the right place considering that part of that proposal also included a soccer stadium.But then they dropped the soccer stadium proposal deal,but nothing changed for the downtown arena.These opportunities are rare in El Paso when people agree to move our city forward and pass bond issues.
      In contrary, I have been following an arena project for El Paso ever since Texas Western College won the NCAA back in 1966. There was a lot of interest in building a new arena after that 1966 Championship Game.
      The closest El Paso got was back in 1972 when El Paso voters turned down a 16,000 bond issue to build a downtown arena. It was all the oldtimers that voted against such downtown venue,not until the University of Texas.Finally decided to build UTEP a 12,000 seat arena on the UTEP campus. I still thought that it was way too small considering that the Miners had put El Paso on the sports map. Even more weird was when University of Texas officials built the arena for the UT Austin Longhorns.Considering that no college team in Texas had ever won an NCAA ever.Even now that UTEP still holds the title as the only school in Texas that has accomplished what no one else has.
      With all that being said, it's time to do things the right way and build
      big,smart and professional,there's no point in repeating past mistakes.
      El Paso needs a larger seating capacity arena,bigger and better than the Pit in Albuquerque,our closest competitor and all time rival.Seriously, those folks up in Albuquerque are always watching what El Paso does and builds.Then they turn around and build bigger and better things,like the Big I freeway interchange.The Albuquerque Sunport, and that downtown bank building that dwarfs El Paso's downtown Wells Fargo bank building.
      Never mind Albuquerque!I'm getting carried away and long winded with this post,but I like talking about El Paso's potential and our future.
      I'm glad that Armando Landin created this website called El Paso Development News. It's keeps me informed about what's building and going on in our Great Big City.

  3. We need an arena that can hold 16 to 20,000 to get the next level events and concerts - besides, anything less puts it in direct competition with the Haskins Center.

    The ball park should have been bigger (especially for the cost), and if the plan is to build an undersized arena, let's just save the money and keep going to the Haskins Center.

  4. We need an arena that can hold 16 to 20,000 to get the next level events and concerts - besides, anything less puts it in direct competition with the Haskins Center.

    The ball park should have been bigger (especially for the cost), and if the plan is to build an undersized arena, let's just save the money and keep going to the Haskins Center.

  5. Disagree about the size need to to be 18,000 or so. Cost both to build and maintain a 13000 seat venue vs. and 18,000 go up exponentially. You really should never build for excess capacity on the hopes you will fill it. Most concerts that EP will attract will require the 13,000 range. The ballpark is a perfect example of building to fit, more money is made averaging 7000 in a 9000 seat venue than averaging 7000 in a 12000 seat one. AS for competing with the DHC, well with Basketball, Graduation etc it is only really available about 35% of the year which limits bookings greatly. As for as hosting the NCAA tourney, big time concerts etc, arenas size is only one metric they use (check ABQ efforts to get a NCAA tourney host, which failed 2x). Many of the metric measures EP has limits large scale concerts (airport access, demographics and regional location to name a few). 13000 is good for our needs at this time, is what we can afford and build. Homework has been done on this and it should be a fantastic success just as the ballpark was.

    1. Mosquitos don't have Voice,they have annoying buzzing sound from their tiny wings, No I disagree with your arena size of 13,000. But regardless,the city is still going to build a small arena.BTW! Albuquerque has hosted tons of NCAA tournaments over the many years that the Pit has existed. Maybe now they have a hard time attracting the NCAA
      tournaments because there are more advanced modern arenas everywhere. In most cities the size of El Paso and some even smaller.Even in Tucson they have NCAA tournaments and their arena seats a little upwards of 14,000 fans.A lot of people that travel to El Paso come by car to see concerts or events, doubt that there is much interest traveling by air.
      As known airport passenger traffic has been in a decline for several years in a role now.Like someone just mentioned earlier, even the downtown baseball stadium is small. For the cost it took to build Southwest University Park Stadium $75 million.Fresno,Salt Lake City,Sacramento,Albuquerque all have larger stadiums and their stadiums cost a lot less to build.But your probably right, in the meantime stay away from Mosquitos, they carry west nile and the zika virus.And that's not a good thing.

  6. We need the arena bigger than 15,000 seats for bigger events. We can get an NBA"D-League" team and a WNBA team.

  7. We need the arena bigger than 15,000 seats for bigger events. We can get an NBA"D-League" team and a WNBA team.

  8. The arena main atttraction will be a D-League team from the phoenix suns. I think almost 14,000 for a dleague team is great.

    1. They can also hold pinball or volleyball tournaments at 13,000 seat capacity or a cupcake bake sale convention at full capacity.
      But it still doesn't address the issue that the arena will be too ridiculously small!This city council will not consider the consequences that they are about to build another Don Haskins size arena.Therefore they will never be able to attract larger venues for this tiny place.Good thing the County didn't knock down the El Paso Coliseum yet!

  9. I think they should build this arena at the old Asarco site instead of downtown. Lets face the facts, there is no more space in downtown so that means homes and businesses and historical buildings would have to be demolished in order to make room for the arena. So the old Asarco site would be a great place and how cool would it be if it were name after it it like Asarco Arena or something, It'll represent a homage to the iconic smelter plant/smokestacks of El Paso.

    1. It is nice that you share your opinion but locating the downtown arena plans to the Asarco site is a No Go.El Paso voters voted for the arena to be built in downtown only and not elsewhere. Also the Asarco site is still contaminated and will always be that way and furthermore is even unfit for human habitation.Even UTEP is very careful about purchasing this land to build on since all the contaminated soil was covered up with one or two feet of soil.Developers could never build apartments,hotels,student housing,schools,grocery stores and not a nice place to hang out for some long term duration.From above the real estate looks good,but below it's still a wasteland of an environment.
      Downtown El Paso is where this arena will be built and maybe eminent domain might have to be use to acquire the proper property to build it.

  10. I think they should build this arena at the old Asarco site instead of downtown. Lets face the facts, there is no more space in downtown so that means homes and businesses and historical buildings would have to be demolished in order to make room for the arena. So the old Asarco site would be a great place and how cool would it be if it were name after it it like Asarco Arena or something, It'll represent a homage to the iconic smelter plant/smokestacks of El Paso.

  11. Exactly, it's a huge undertaking to build these structures, displace people , etc...
    So do it right the first time. It doesn't make any sense to spend millions for only 2k seats more. Make it larger since this city is growing. 18-20k seats. Come on guys, common sense.

    1. It's time for all those people living next to the Judson F. Williams Convention Center to HIT THE ROAD JACK! VAMONOS PRONTO!!! There is nothing in this blighted place worth saving, everything there is dilapidated,falling apart,boarded windows,seedy part of downtown.Good place to get carjacked or mugged during dark hours.Smarter Heads will Prevail! Besides we already have tons of historical houses and buildings all over Central El Paso, and some really nice well upkept restored ones.The ones over at Union Plaza don't qualify even if you throw cheap buckets of white wash over them.

  12. The voters did not approve an arena in 2012, they approved "cultural and entertainment and library facilities...". The language was intentionally vague because the people behind the arena knew that the public would never support it.

    1. An arena is a cultural entertainment center pending how it's designed and built,as opposed to the Don Haskins center which is really just an arena.The 2012 quality of life bond issue clearly stated that a multi purpose use downtown arena would be built in downtown with voter approval.
      So with this being said the city also had other plans in line with the bond issues but had to remove a couple.There was to be remodeling of the Sun Bowl Stadium and the construction of a soccer stadium.
      In the mix of all this the city probably figure that they were asking way too much from El Paso voters. So they scaled down by saying that the Sun Bowl was a University of Texas matter and the soccer stadium should be dropped.
      The bottom line is that instead the city should have asked El Paso voters for $230 million dollars for the arena.I'm sure that the voters would have said OK since plans for the other two proposals had been scraped.

  13. If people believe building a 12,700 seat, as Tommy Gonzalez desires, or a 13,250 seat arena, as consultants recommend, will bring NCAA Basketball Tournament games to El Paso, they are sadly disillusioned.

    Yes, the NCAA reduced the minimum seating for the Division 1 Tournament to 10,000. But look at the venues that host these tournament games. Except for the Dayton Center, the traditional host of the "First Four" who has seen 18 straight years through 2018 of being such a host, with a capacity of 13,435, all venues, including the Pit in Albuquerque, have a capacity of close to 15,000 or higher (Tucson's McKale Center, 14,655, last hosted a Tournament round in 2011).

    And, I am talking about opening round games. A Sweet 16 round in El Paso is totally, completely out of the question. In 1981, there was an opening round played at the Don Haskins Center. Why have there not been any more since? Does UTEP not submit an application to the NCAA to being a host city? It doesn't cost anything to file an application and it isn't that difficult. If they have been requesting to be a tournament host, why has not the NCAA granted them another opportunity over the past 35 years?

    Personally, it is very difficult to trust a city and county government that has been so inept over the recent years. Requesting and receiving a $56,000 grant for a downtown historical survey but deciding to decline it last year followed by the County saying they will now pay for such a survey is just one example.

    1. No final decision has been made yet to the capacity of the new downtown arena.But according to the El Paso Times and the El Paso Inc, city representative Courtney Niland said that El Paso could recover from the El Paso state sales tax. In the sum of $25 million dollar tax incentive to build the arena at 15,000 seat capacity and maybe even go higher.
      If the city can acquire a sponsor for naming rights to the downtown arena.

      It's about time that El Paso start seeing the Big Picture and stop building small venues because this town is getting pretty big.
      The Pit in Albuquerque seats between 17,000 and 18,000 spectators as it was downsized from 20,000 seats,considering that it was built back in the 1960's.As for Tucson's UofA McKale Center your right,it's between 14,000 and 15,000 thousand and they just recently had it renovated.That arena was built in the 1970's after they pulled out of the WAC to join the PAC.

      And finally the city did the right thing to refuse the $56,000 grant for a downtown historical survey while the county did accept the grant for the same purpose. Had the city accepted the grant then the survey would have taken place and all property concern including the footprint of the arena. Would be nullified or void, with the you can't build it there approach. That is what Historical Commission Max Grossman is now trying to do to enter fear with the arena location. By saying that they are going to destroy historical buildings, when in God's giving truth.
      What is there now might be old but is also a neglected dilapidated eyesores and nothing really worth saving or has any architectural value.

      The real history is that Ponce Leon built his ranch at that same location long before Union Plaza and that history is now gone.
      The real Union Plaza is over by the old Santa Fe Train Station that also includes some old buildings that have been converted and renovated into apartments,bars nightclubs and restaurants.

      And finally the new downtown arena will definitely once when finally built will compliment the Civic and Convention Center. Along with Mexican/American Cultural Center the Southwest University Park Stadium and the new Children's Museum. El Paso Museum of Art El Paso History Museum the Digi Wall at Cleveland Square The Plaza Theater the Artspace Lofts. The new Courtyard by Marriott hotel now under construction the newly renovated San Jacinto Plaza and the soon to be once again and renovated Paso Del Norte Hotel.That will also include Plaza Hotel restoration and whatever Paul Foster wants to put there. Maybe apartment lofts with some hotel rooms and last but not the least the restoration and reintroduction of El Paso's Vintage electric street cars service.
      Did I also tell you about what they are going to do with the Banner building the former Popular department store now called the Fallas store. And the old International building that is right across the street from the Bassett Tower currently being renovated and converted to a new Aloft Hotel?
      I'm just here sitting and waiting for the downtown arena to start construction and God Bless those folks that will have to move,but life does not end there. EL PASO IS ON A ROLL UPWARDS! STILL WAITING TO HEAR WHAT THE CITY HAS PLANS FOR THE PROPERTY ACROSS FROM CITY HALL! last I heard it was suppose to be a multi story Mix Use High Rise.
      Maybe by then the City can host a Sweet Sixteen NCAA tournament in the new downtown arena.
      So what good are surveys for if they are going to stop progress? maybe if they can get Billy Abraham to fix all of his downtown buildings up.
      That's the missing part of the puzzle!

  14. The latest news is now that there will be 'NO DOWNTOWN ARENA AFTER ALL'! as five city leaders including mayor Oscar Leeser conspired in illegal closed door meetings with the opposition protesters.So with this being said this latest news could also be the end to the downtown revitalization that was coming along so good till the wimp mayor and his crony city reps.Decided that the Union Plaza location would be best suited for the 65 free loading welfare recipients that reside in Barrio Historical the Dilapidated!
    So what's next? the Judson F. Williams convention center will end up costing the city a hell of a lot more money to build it there. And that's just to demolish the convention center alone in which about 1/3 of the $180 million allocated for the building of the arena.Well end up being wasted voter taxpayer moneys.The downtown hotels,restaurants and the convention industry will be the biggest losers followed by the downtown revitalization because of this inept city council that lacks serious leadership.All but maybe two city reps. should be recalled including the wimp mayor Oscar Leeser.The mayor calls the Durangito
    people poor when they are really taking advantage of social services such as welfare including food stamps and cheap rent.Lazy People that much more prefer to remain poor by not working or even trying to move forward in their lives.
    As taxpayers foot their bills and pay their expenses and the mayor makes lame excuses for them.Thanks a lot Jim Tolbert you are also part of the problem!

  15. Correction from my previous post! what I meant that 1/3 of the $180 million will be wasted on demolishing the Judson F. Williams convention center.That alone will only leave $120 million left to build a downtown arena about the size of UTEP'S old Memorial Gym which seats only 5000.There is no point in destroying a voter approved convention center because this city council don't know what they are doing.As it already is, city council wasted taxpayer money to hire out of town consultants worth in the millions. To find three locations within the downtown district in order to build three signature quality of life voter approved structures.The downtown arena was one of the news building that would had been built. But now even future conventions that were already booked might have to relocate to other more worthy deserving southwest cities.Because El Paso city leaders don't have the smarts and don't deserve to get reelected or run for higher office. END!

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