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Judge: Decision on whether Downtown arena can host sporting events by week’s end

A Travis County Judge said she plans to issue a ruling on whether the City of El Paso can host sporting events at the multi-purpose facility by the end of this week.

ABC-7 streamed the hearing live on and was the only El Paso-area station in Austin covering the hearing.

The City argues the facility would be primarily used for performing arts, but could also host entertainment like sporting events. It also wants to judge to issue a final judgment with a “permanent injunction against the filing by any person or entity of any proceeding contesting the validity of the bonds, the authorization of the bonds and the expenditure of money relating to the bonds.”

Opponents of the arena disagree, arguing voters were misled about the City’s intentions for the multi-purpose facility. “The problem is the use of bond money for a sports facility not approved by the voters,” said Harriet O’Neill, the attorney for Dr. Max Grossman.

Scott Incerto, an attorney for the City, argued “sports arena” is the term used by opponents and never brought up by the City. “A determined and well-funded opponent can frustrate the will of the majority,” Incerto said, “Grossman’s issue is not sports, it’s the location. This is never going to be over for Mr. Grossman until he is able to prevent this facility from being built in Union Plaza.”

“The design of the facility will determine its use. We don’t believe any funds can be used to build a facility that houses sports,” O’Neill further argued.

In court documents, opponents of a sports arena proposed several ways to keep sports from creeping back into the picture later. One is to ensure the design does not include locker rooms or other sports specific features. The other is preventing the city from issuing certificates of obligation to pay for enhancements or completion of the facility later on.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum made it clear she did not want to get involved in a political battle. “You all brought me this fight. I didn’t pick this fight. I didn’t necessarily seek this fight,” Meachum said, “I do not want you coming to me for weekly approvals on what gets demolished and so forth. It is not the job of this court to be a shadow city government and go forth and approving or denying.”

Meachum’s statements during the hearing did not hint at what her decision will be. At one point, the judge said, “I can conceive of having a theater and putting on a boxing match on the stage.”

Meachum also asked the City’s attorneys, “(The ordinance) says performing arts in the body. It says performing arts many times and nowhere do I come to a definition that says sports. I just can’t find that. So I ask you again: where does that leave us?”

“Entertainment is clearly broad enough, it was put in to include all type of sports and to suggest that sports is not part of entertainment is unreasonable,” Incerto told the judge.

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