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El Paso Triple-A team owners want $10 million ballpark budget hike

The owners of El Paso’s future Triple-A baseball team are asking the city to increase the budget to build downtown’s ballpark. That could take the new grand total of the ballpark up to $74 million if the request is granted.

Mayor Oscar Leeser responded in an email to the MountainStar Sports Group Saturday that he can’t support the proposal.

Correspondence released Saturday by the City of El Paso shows Mountain Star senior vice president Josh Hunt told Leeser, “after agreeing to the revised deal, it has since become evident that the $64 million budgeted for the Ballpark likely will not be sufficient to complete construction.”

“Notwithstanding the continuing obligation of the City for cost overruns, in the continued spirit of the public private partnership, but with no legal obligation to do so, MountainStar is willing to step up again and provide additional funds for theBallpark construction costs,” wrote Hunt.

The offer comes with conditions.

The sports group is requesting power to change project plans, construction schedule and the ability to make budget changes.

It’s also requesting the City turn over its use of a ballpark suite and exchange that for the same number of seats in other areas; that parts of Missouri street be closed during MountainStar events at the ballpark; and it wants the City to pay for certain projects to integrate the ballpark into the neighborhood. The City would have to find a separate source of funding for those projects.

Mayor Oscar Leeser opted for negotiation.

“… I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that I personally cannot support the proposal as presented… At my request, the city attorney is currently drafting a counter proposal for your review.”

Leeser also set an ultimatum.

If the City and MountainStar group don’t reach an agreement by Monday, the mayor will direct city staff and the developer to adjust the design so the ballpark can be delivered within the approved budget of $64 million.

City representative Cortney Niland, whose district includes the ballpark, and City Representative Eddie Holguin sided with the mayor.

“Absolutely no more overages, whether they’re willing to pay for them or not,” said Niland.

“It’s the second time they come to ask for additional revenue and it’s only going to be more money that they’re going to come back and ask for,” said Holguin.

The original cost of the ballpark was $50 million, but the team owners asked the City to raise the budget to $64 million in order to fit some special features to make it a “state of the art” facility.

MountainStar Sports Group amended its contract to contribute more than $12 million as part of the increase.

This time, even Niland, who has been a staunch supporter or the ballpark project, was hesitant to support the ownership group’s request.

“I think at the end of the day, sometimes you just have to be willing to say ‘enough is enough,’ and so whether they’re willing to pay for this, we’re all just saying ‘we’re done,’ ” Niland said.

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