El Paso will play ball in 2014 -- if Mayor John Cook doesn't strike the deal with his veto authority.
"We're very happy, very excited for El Paso and don't believe the mayor will veto this project," said local businessman and philanthropist Paul Foster of MountainStar Sports Group, the private investment group bringing the Tucson Padres to El Paso. "We're moving forward."
After more than six hours of passionate public discussion Tuesday, the City Council approved a contract with MountainStar for the lease of the $50 million ballpark that will be built Downtown and house the Triple-A minor league team.
Cook left the council chambers immediately after the approval and would not comment on whether he plans to veto the vote. Under the city
charter, he has five days to do so. Three-fourths of the representatives -- six of the eight -- could vote to override his veto.
More than 100 people spoke in favor of or in opposition to the ballpark, which the council in June agreed to build where City Hall now stands if MountainStar Sports secured a team. The June action was challenged by a certified petition, which asked that the vote be rescinded, but the council voted down that option Tuesday.
Instead, the council voted 4-3 in favor of approving the contract, after which the audience erupted in cheers, high-fives and congratulatory handshakes. A few opponents still in the room promised that their fight against the ballpark and the demolition of City Hall wasn't over.
City Reps. Ann Morgan Lilly, Susie Byrd, Dr. Michiel Noe and Cortney Niland voted in favor of the contract. Reps. Eddie Holguin, Carl Robinson and Emma Acosta voted against it. Rep. Steve Ortega was on his honeymoon and did not attend the meeting, but he had expressed his support for the project from the beginning.
The Pacific Coast League on Tuesday told MountainStar it had approved the sale, transfer and relocation of the Tucson team to El Paso for the 2014 season with conditions,
including that the city agreed to move forward with the lease and ballpark construction.
Tuesday, the council cemented the deal with the MountainStar group by approving the lease contract.
The 25-year lease carries a base rent of $20,000 a year, with an increase of 10 percent every five years. The lease also calls for a 50-cent ticket surcharge for the city, with a 10 percent increase every five years. The city will also receive $24,000 a year with a 10 percent increase every five years, with other parking revenues split between the city and MountainStar.
The contract also calls for the originally proposed no-compete clause to be removed. That means the El Paso Diablos, who now lease the city-owned Cohen Stadium, can continue to play there past 2016 if the city extends their lease.
Also Tuesday, the council approved a ballpark development agreement that establishes a process and schedule for the design and construction of the ballpark, as well as a nonrelocation agreement that keeps the team in El Paso for at least 25 years and sets penalties if the team is relocated.
The council also approved an $81 million City Hall Relocation and Ballpark Capital Improvement Plan, which sets into motion the purchase of buildings into which city offices will be moved, allocates money for the move and identifies funding sources for the plan. The $81 million includes the cost of the ballpark construction.
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