El Paso City Council set to discuss ballpark revenue shortfalls

El Paso ballpark (KTSM Photo)

El Paso ballpark (KTSM Photo)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Hopes for the city-owned ballpark in Downtown El Paso to become self-sufficient will have to wait, according to the city’s latest financial figures.

City officials declared the ballpark would begin paying back to the city’s general fund during an update on its finances a little more than a year ago.

But, that was before the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the globe, negatively affecting lives and economies.

On Tuesday, the Downtown Development Corp., comprised of the mayor and city representatives, learned of the economic effects the pandemic has had on the ballpark’s finances.

The council learned about a $1.3 million variance between revenues from 2019 and 2020 through hotel occupancy taxes, sales taxes, ticket revenues and parking, according to city documents. They’ll also find the ballpark will require a $570,381 subsidy this year from the city’s general fund.

Courtesy city of El Paso website

Subsidies to support the ballpark have cost taxpayers more than $3 million since it opened.

City financial figures suggest a $1.1 million general fund subsidy was avoided through debt service savings of $581,400.

The $72 million ballpark was completed in 2014 and the debt is mainly paid through a 2-percent hotel tax added to guests at local hotels. The method was approved by voters in 2012.

The city had hoped the 7,500-seat ballpark would begin reimbursing its general fund in fiscal year 2020 with the help of a successful Chihuahuas baseball team and the newly formed Locomotive United Soccer League team.

Projections in mid-2019 had revenues covering debt service expenses, which was warmly met by city officials.

But in June, the baseball team’s season was canceled and though the soccer team continued playing games, there was limited viewership that could watch from the ballpark.

The prospect for the facility and its operations to pay for itself may have to wait another three years, according to the city’s latest figures. A renewed debt model shows hotel occupancy taxes and other revenues will not cover debt-service expenses until 2024.

The city projected hotel occupancy revenues would bring in nearly $3.5 million in the 2020 fiscal year. But the actual revenue came short of the projection by $895,652, which is suspected to be an example of the pandemic’s effect on hotel stays in El Paso.

Hotel occupancy tax projections are a bit more modest compared to last year’s financial predictions. The city expects to collect $2.1 million from hotel occupancy taxes compared to last year’s projection of nearly $3.6 million.

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