Late Thursday evening, the City of El Paso released a statement from Mayor Oscar Leeser, regarding several issues brought to light regarding the Downtown arena.
What follows is that release/statement, in its entirety.
To ensure El Pasoans have the correct information with regard to the Quality of Life Bond Program, particularly the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center (MPC), Mayor Oscar Leeser today is clarifying misinformation about this signature bond project.
“When I took office in June 2013, it was my duty to carry out the desires of the voters. With the passage of the 2012 bond election, as Mayor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all of the projects are executed and to the highest quality,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. “Unfortunately, there have been many misconceptions of what is required under the passage of bond and in fact, how quickly my Administration has acted to rollout the projects.”
Clarification on Why Downtown?
The ordinance calling the 2012 bond election was approved by City Council on August 14, 2012. The proposition called for “Museum, Cultural, Performing Arts, and Library Facilities” called for a “Multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility located in Downtown El Paso.” Due to the location designation within the ordinance, the MPC must be located within the downtown footprint.
Clarification on Timeline
When the City of El Paso originally promoted the bond election, the bond was a 15-year initiative. The arena, as originally proposed was one of the last projects to be completed.
On February 5, 2013, the previous City Council approved a three-year rollout plan for bond program projects totaling approximately $101.4 million.
The rollout plan for the bond program may be modified. The City has the ability to accelerate or slow down the construction based on its ability to pay back the debt, or bonds issued for the projects.
During the third-year of the rollout plan, City Council decided to accelerate the projects, and on January 26, 2016, City Council voted on an 8-year rollout for the remainder of the projects.
This final phase identified $416 million in projects, including $204 million in signature projects.
Clarification on Funding to Accelerate Projects
Original debt models showed Quality of Life bond project funding out to 2028, essentially a 15-year initiative. In late 2014, in order to take advantage of a favorable bond market, staff worked at the direction of City Council to come in within a 10-year rollout with specifications that land acquisition dollars and for the MPC be allocated in the early years.
City Council has accelerated the funding for the projects since early 2016 with the current debt issuance standing at $248,975,328 out of the $473,250,000 authorized. According to the debt issue schedule presented to Council in 2014, to date we would only have issued $83,363,000 if Council had not accelerated the rollout of the projects.
A total of 44 quality of life bond projects have been completed to date. The majority of those projects are nestled in neighborhoods where they can be enjoyed by residents. Accelerating the signature bond projects compliments projects completed and provides the community with the best of both worlds.
The land for the Children’s Museum has been acquired. It will sit on the former Greyhound Lines, Inc. maintenance facility in downtown. The facility has been demolished to make way for the museum.
The Mexican American Cultural Center site has been identified. The center will be established at the Abraham Chavez Theater, which will be renovated.
Clarification on State Incentives
The City is looking at the area near the convention center to take advantage of state incentives. To be eligible for the incentives, the City would have to have a convention center hotel within the 1000 feet of the convention center property line. The convention hotel and the convention center would in essence create a convention center campus.
The state rebates would come from revenues from the businesses located within the convention center campus footprint.
The state incentives may be used toward various projects such as the MPC and or any additional public improvements that can enhance the convention center campus.
The MPC project would be considered an amenity that is in support of the convention center campus. The proximity of the MPC to the convention center would have to be at a location that is reasonable enough to show the State Comptroller’s office that it is an amenity in support of the Convention Center campus.
Clarification on Council’s Action
City Council’s recent action allows the City to continue moving forward with the exploration of identifying other feasible locations within the downtown area.