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Did El Paso voters know they were voting on an arena that would include sports?

Confusion continues over the $180 million Downtown arena project after a judge’s latest ruling that it cannot be built specific to sports in any way.

Opponents say the City “hid the ball” on the ballot, taking advice from a sports consultant not to mention the word “sports.”

“It was deceptive because it left out what the City wanted to do and that was to build a sports arena,” said Carmen Rodriguez, an attorney working to prevent the arena from being built in the Duranguito neighborhood.

But the real question is whether those who voted thought it would include sports … or not?

ABC-7 spoke with several El Pasoans this week about the arena project. Before that, ABC-7 found a consultant hired by the El Paso Tomorrow political action committee that helped sell the 2012 Quality of Life bond to El Pasoans speaking about the arena and mentioning sports just two months before it was voted on.

“It’s an 18,000 seat facility, but it’s part of the overall quality of life plan and it includes an opportunity for regional, and top NCAA tournament basketball games, hockey, religious revival, concerts, conventions,” well-known sports consultant Rick Horrow told ABC-7 in September of 2012.

The confusion has left some, like former El Paso Tomorrow PAC chairman Tripper Goodman, making statements like this: “It’s too bad that we as a community are still having 8 to 10 to 12 people trying to stop something that 110,000 to 120,000 voted for it.”

The arena project has become less about Duranguito and more about whether it will be designed for sports or not, so ABC-7 decided to ask people whether they thought the arena would include sports.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said El Pasoan Ted Jablonski.

“I thought I was voting for a sportsplex,” said El Pasoan David Siqueiros. “Tthat’s what i thought we were getting.”

“You know, I think that’s kind of a gray area,” said Irene Rangel. “I thought it might, but I voted against it because I didn’t want it there.”

“You’d think that sports would be included for the arena,” added Emmanuel Carcoba.

“Generally, when I hear the term arena, I do think they’re discussing sports and other events they may bring in,” said El Pasoan Sheila Awalt,”similar to what they do on the UTEP campus.”

While most felt the arena would include sports, the prevailing theme was frustration.

“It keeps going on and on and on and on and I wish they would finally come to some kind of a conclusion,” Jablonski said. “Either say you can do it or you can’t.”

The City’s decision to appeal the judge’s no funding for to make the arena specific to sports ruling could delay a decision for up to a year. Opponents estimate every month the arena project is delayed will cost the city, and taxpayers, another $800,000 dollars.

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