In less than 10 seconds on Sunday, a building that once housed El Paso City Hall turned to dust.
It was all part of a major effort by the city to revitalize its sleepy downtown. The demolition of the 34-year-old building makes way for a multimillion dollar Triple-A baseball stadium for the Tucson Padres, who will be moving to El Paso for their 2014 season.
City officials hope the stadium will anchor the downtown revitalization, attracting businesses and pedestrians to the area.
Some locals had mixed feelings seeing the building go down.
“It was a little sad. You know, when you saw the glass shake. It’s the end of an era,” said Leslie Goldmann, who has spent most of her life in El Paso.
As hundreds gathered for the implosion Sunday morning, some expressing awe others expressing sadness, Goldmann said she recognized it’s a good move for El Paso to bring a new sports franchise.
“People always say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing to do here,’” she said. “But now that there’s a ballpark, we’re going to hear ‘Oh, we have something to do.’”
The demolition wasn’t the only boom, literally, for the Sun City this weekend.
On Saturday, large smokestacks from the former Asarco copper and lead smelter site in El Paso were also demolished, which will be cleared for development, also in an effort to revive the city.
El Paso City Manager, Joyce Wilson, said the ballpark, which was a financially controversial decision among citizens, is the single largest investment to be made in downtown El Paso in decades.
The cost of the stadium construction and site preparation for the demolition is expected to be $55 million. An additional $30 million was already spent relocating city offices, according to Wilson.
“The (ballpark) location will spur other retail and entertainment activity and support the existing retail and entertainment center,” she said.
Wilson added she expects the ballpark to bring in new visitors to El Paso, including from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The new ballpark will sit about 200 yards away from El Paso’s bordering city, Ciudad Juárez.
A $225 million bond that was voter-approved in November will fund the stadium; the bond also includes a children’s museum and a cultural heritage center, plus improvements to existing facilities in the downtown over the next 10 years, according to Wilson.
James Hale supports El Paso’s revitalization, but was enraged to see the costs involved in the new stadium.
“A waste of money,” he said. “A big waste of money, due to the fact they had to spend so much money moving City Hall out.”
Hale is also unhappy with the choice of location.
“You’re going to have all this traffic coming in trying to get to the baseball stadium. It’s going to be a problem.”
He believes the Triple-A team should play at El Paso’s ballpark Cohen Stadium, where the minor league team, the Diablos, play.
Hale said he would like to see more activities for older people be part of the revitalization.
“An auditorium where people and my wife and I could come dance to real old music like the ‘50s and ‘60s,” he said. “There’s nothing around here like that.”
Yet Robert Rodriguez, 20, who is studying to be an architect, said he doesn’t think El Paso has many baseball fans, but he believes it will help revitalize his hometown.
“I think it will get the community more involved.”