EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso city leaders on Tuesday voted to keep the multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment center, also commonly known as the downtown arena project, on the table.
City Council members Alexsandra Annello and Claudia Rodriguez placed an item on the agenda calling for suspending the construction, demolition and archeological survey on the land for the eventual site of the facility due to the financial losses mounting for the city because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
City manager Tommy Gonzalez told the mayor and council that there were no plans at this moment to move forward with the construction or demolition of buildings, and that the only money spent so far on the 2012 voter-approved quality-of-life bond project has been on land acquisition and litigation.
The litigation involves on-going lawsuits filed by activist Max Grossman, who seeks to halt the project on historical preservation objections involving the Duranguito neighborhood, where the arena would be built.
Both Mayor Dee Margo and Mayor pro-tempore Peter Svarzbein have suggested that arena opponents were playing politics under the cover of virus concerns.
But Annello and Rodriguez argued that fellow representatives were more receptive to furloughing about 400 city employees than on the plan to suspend moving forward with the arena.
In the end, only Annello and Rodriguez voted in favor of suspending the arena project with the rest of their fellow representatives voting against suspending it.
In contrast, Monday's vote to furlough city employees was unanimous.
The city's chief financial officer has estimated that the city is facing an $86 million shortfall over the current and coming fiscal budget years as a result of decreased revenues due to the virus outbreak.