Someone will have to explain to me why the news out of Amarillo City Hall is somehow bad for the city.
It’s going to take a mighty stout argument to persuade me.
The City Council today announced that Elmore Sports Group, the outfit that owns the San Antonio Missions AA baseball team, has signed a 30-year lease agreement to play minor-league baseball at the new ballpark set to be built across the street from City Hall.
The city plans to pay for the $45.5 million multipurpose event venue with hotel occupancy tax revenue. Elmore will pay the city $400,000 annually to rent the ballpark.
They’re going to break ground on the MPEV in early 2018; they plan to finish the venue in time for the start of the 2019 baseball season.
Get your hot dogs and cold beer right here!
What a journey it has been — and what a journey that lies ahead.
And yet, there is a continual chorus from a cadre of soreheads that keeps casting the city’s downtown revival in negative terms.
It seems like a hundred years ago that Amarillo voters approved a citywide “non-binding referendum” on whether to support construction of the MPEV. The cost of the building in November 2015 — when the election occurred — had been pegged at $32 million. The cost inflated a bit after the ballots were counted, which brought out some howls around the city.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride, to be sure.
Voters elected a new council majority in the spring of 2015 and there was some discussion about the council slamming the brakes on the MPEV. To its credit, the new council majority heeded its better angels and allowed the vote to proceed.
Prior to all of that we got to witness the general managing contractor — an outfit named Wallace Bajjali — disintegrate in a spat between its principal owners. It was damn ugly! They left the city without an organization that was supposed to coordinate all the moving parts. Fortunately for Amarillo, the organization’s demise didn’t damage the city’s commitment to proceeding with the ballpark/MPEV.
But there was some turnover in some key municipal management positions. Melissa Dailey essentially was forced out of her job as head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., City Manager Jarret Atkinson quit over his inability to work with the new council majority and Amarillo Economic Development Corporation President Buzz David retired and moved out of town.
But the MPEV kept moving forward.
The Local Government Corporation was able to get a tentative agreement with the Missions, who wanted out of the Alamo City, which courted a AAA franchise.
And today, everyone signed on the dotted line.
Downtown Amarillo has made tremendous strides in the past half-dozen years. We now have a first-class convention hotel and parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. The city is able to lure conventions to the Civic Center. Business is booming along with construction of downtown residence construction.
Why in the world is all of this is a bad thing for Amarillo?
I want to restate what I believe is quite obvious: Every thriving city in America has virtually one thing in common. They all boast thriving downtown districts.
Amarillo has taken a big step toward a bright future.