Dear Media and Friends,
If you ever wondered why our local Chihuahuas franchise is called “triple A,” it is because the Ballpark that hosts them cost more than triple what we were told!
As of now, the total estimated cost of the Ballpark to taxpayers is $164 million!
You will recall that Joyce Wilson, Steve Ortega, and their minions told us the project would cost only $50 million, and then the price was adjusted upwards to $64,000,000. The City demolished $14.8 million worth of real estate (City Hall and Insights Museum) and moved the City into five different locations, each of which had to be separately renovated. The voters were then sold on raising the Hotel Occupancy Tax to 17.5%, the highest in America, diverting $18 million to the Ballpark (so far) rather than funding tourist initiatives. But that is not enough, so the City General Fund has chipped in $2.5 million. Meanwhile, our bond interest payments have already exceeded $25.7 million.
Total revenues from the Ballpark since it opened are only $5.1 million. The yearly average of $858,000 is much less than the average yearly revenue of a McDonald’s restaurant. Look it up if you do not believe me.
Again Mr. Cortinas, HOT funds are a subsidy, not revenue, so they are not included in my version of your chart.
Thus, the Ballpark has cost $32 for each $1 in revenue, and revenue is down 23% since 2015! Only Rep. Svarzbein’s trolley is less profitable.
The City still argues that the Ballpark has been an economic engine for downtown, and they try to link the ongoing renovation of several historic buildings to the “success” of the project, yet they have failed to establish a causal link between the Ballpark and economic development; and neither they nor the media have presented any direct evidence for the economic benefit that Jessica Herrera keeps bragging about while never presenting any statistics.
Mind you, the $164 million figure does not include legal and administrative costs, the added cost of operating five facilities instead of one, the added parking costs for City employees, and several other factors. It also does not include the cost of diverting police officers and their squad cars to Chihuahuas games for hundreds of hours per year. Finally, none of the figures are adjusted for inflation.
To add insult to injury, the contract that the City signed with MountainStar Sports Group stipulates that the City will receive “Fifty Cents ($0.50) for each ticket sold for each Ballpark Event during each of the first five calendar years” of the contract, $0.55 for years six to ten, $0.61 for years eleven to fifteen, $0.67 for years sixteen to twenty, $0.73 for years twenty-one to twenty-five, and $0.80 thereafter, until the end of the contract.
Since we are now in year six of the contract of the amended agreement, the City will receive only $0.55 per ticket per game, even though the City paid $64 million dollars of the $76 million construction cost of the Ballpark and, directly or indirectly, expended an additional $100 million more on the project so far.
Let us put this in perspective. In the first five years of operation, the City received only $1.5 million in ticket revenue, with each ticket selling for somewhere between 10 and 76 times what the City received! We cannot know the exact figure because each section of the Ballpark has its own pricing and we do not know how many seats from each section were sold, nor do we know how the revenue from season tickets was calculated.
But here’s the clincher. In May 2019, in celebration of Economic Development Week, Mayor Margo presented the Economic Development Award to the El Paso Chihuahuas. I assume he presented the award in recognition of the “economic development” of the MountainStar Sports Group, which must be drawing significant revenue from its ballpark operations and its ownership of the baseball franchise while the taxpayers bleed an ocean of red ink!
And now that HOT revenues have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, expect the City to have to kick in at least $1 million more from the general fund in FY 2020 in order to make up for the expected shortfall in the Ballpark budget.
There is not a single media report that comes even close to reporting the truth about this financial boondoggle. KVIA ran an excellent report a year or two ago but it has disappeared from the internet. The El Paso Times has totally failed to cover the losses in a manner that is clear and cohesive. Of course, for the Oligarchy Gazette the Ballpark is the greatest thing since mashed potatoes.
Have a nice evening.