MLS In Preliminary Talks With El Paso Group For Possible Expansion Team
MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Triple-A PCL El Paso Chihuahuas, yesterday announced it has had "preliminary and positive" talks with MLS about an expansion franchise in the city, according to a front-page piece by Aaron Bracamontes of the EL PASO TIMES. The city "could be the home" of an MLS team "within the next six years." MountainStar President Alan Ledford said that there have "been several meetings with MLS representatives, including two" with Commissioner Don Garber. Ledford: "MLS has expressed their interest in the region based on conversations with Don Garber and they had representatives present for the first El Paso Chihuahuas game at Southwest University Park and they walked away impressed." He added that the "specifics on the finances and how or where the stadium will be built is a 'conversation' that has not even begun." Bracamontes notes there also is "no date as to when a plan might be presented to MLS, El Paso City Council or El Paso County Commissioners Court." Ledford said that MLS is "dictating the timeline and MountainStar is following their lead." MLS indicated that there "could be some sort of presentation within months." League President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbot in an e-mail wrote, "We look forward to learning more about their specific plans in the coming months." Garber has stated that the league plans to expand to 24 teams by '20. A 23rd expansion team is in the works with David Beckham, but his group "has not been able to get the city of Miami to agree" on a location, "putting the franchise in limbo." Minneapolis, San Antonio and Sacramento also are reportedly interested in an MLS team. Ledford said that El Paso will "need to tap into regional support, specifically Juarez and Las Cruces" in order to "separate itself from the pack" (EL PASO TIMES, 6/17).
WHO FOOTS THE BILL? In El Paso, Cindy Ramirez writes questions of where an MLS stadium "might be built and who will pay" for a facility to accommodate at least 18,000 spectators are "just starting to kick up." City and county leaders "say they're excited about the possibility of bringing an MLS team to the region, but warn that it will likely be up to voters whether to pull out a red card on any plans involving tax dollars to build a stadium." El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser: "Any major investment, we'd need to take it out to the voters. I want to be transparent and make sure the community is very involved" (EL PASO TIMES, 6/17).