Remember that Barenaked Ladies song "If I Had $1000000," where the singer fantasizes about all the things he'd buy?
Most of them were things you can't buy with money. But let's pretend. I've got $473,000,000 in taxpayer-approved money to spend on things like parks upgrades, a digital wall for the history museum (cool idea), a new children's museum (needed) and a new arena, or "multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment facility" (heretofore known as an MPPAEF) as proponents of Proposition 2, one of three voters approved Nov. 6, euphemistically called it.
What? "Arena" is a bad word?
I know the money is earmarked for specific projects, though the specifics on the projects, like when and where the 17,000-seat MPPAEF will be built, haven't been detailed yet.
The $473 mill is supposed to be used for the projects outlined in Props 1 and 2 (Prop 3 hands most of the check for the baseball stadium to hotel users, you know, business travelers, tourists, drug dealers).
If I were king, here are some of the ways I'd use that money, not including parks:
• Since Six Flags or one of those big amusement park companies wants to build a water park near Cohen Stadium, I'd convert the 10,000-seat baseball stadium into a 10,000-capacity amphitheater.
The city wants to get rid of the lowly Diablos (maybe the Tiguas can build a baseball stadium near the Socorro Entertainment Center). El Paso doesn't have a big amphitheater that can compete for the plethora of summer concert tours designed to play so-called sheds. McKelligon is way too small.
With our weather, we could have a long outdoor concert season stretching from April (once the dust and winds die down) to October. Keep the concourse and offices, tear out the seating behind home plate and build the stage there. That way the Franklin Mountains and the sunsets would provide a wonderful natural backdrop for a concert.
Turn the infield into pavilion seating for 5,000, where subscribers and corporate sponsors can entertain and be entertained. Turn the outfield into a big, fake-grass-covered hill that can hold 5,000 or more. Those who can afford the pricey tickets can sit in a comfortable (i.e. padded) seat, the great unwashed can get cheap tickets to bake in the sun and drink beer on the hill.
Backup idea: Turn it into a soccer stadium, or convince UTEP to get back into baseball and put the team there.
Estimated price tag: $50 million-$75 million (based purely on my imagination).
• Between the new arena, the Don Haskins Center and all those free shows at Speaking Rock and the Socorro Entertainment Center, the El Paso County Coliseum could get squeezed out.
Why not turn a negative into a positive? Convert the old, beloved Barn and into an aquarium, like the ones in Chicago or Atlanta? Talk about tourist attraction. What desert rat from either side of the border wouldn't pay $20 to see a hammerhead shark in a big fish tank?
And it's right across the street from the zoo (which will get some Prop 1-funded improvements). It's a natural.
Price tag: An unscientific estimate of $75-$100 million, most of it to pay the water bill.
• Fix up, don't tear down the Abraham Chavez Theatre. Yeah, I know, City Council approved a resolution vowing not to flatten the sombrero-shaped theater, but that seemed more like PR than sincere.
The Chavez has that cool sombrero-design going for it. The acoustics are superior to the Plaza Theatre, which is obviously where the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the SMG facility management company have put a lot of their energies since it was restored in 2006, rightfully so.
The Plaza's beautiful, perfect for movies, touring Broadway shows and amplified concerts. But it wasn't built for orchestra concerts, operas and other forms of acoustic music. The Chavez was. It's also great for amplified concerts, theater and children's touring shows.
That stuff would sound horrible in a big arena, no matter how many seats you kill and curtains you put up.
The Chavez just needs some TLC. It needs an upgrade. Clean it up, modernize it, expand the box office, add a restaurant and bars, and replace the seats with new ones that don't slide back and forth like the old ones used to do.
I'd also put a center aisle down the middle of the main floor. That would kill a few hundred seats, but it would make it easier to get a beer or go to the bathroom during a show.
Price tag: $25-$30 million.
• If you build it, will Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Celine Dion and other big names come to the Western Refining/Hunt Companies Multi-Purpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Facility?
That's one way arena proponents sold Prop 2 — minus the venue name, which I made up.
I'm sure we have lost some shows by big names because we don't have a big enough arena. Our newest arena, the Haskins Center, was built in 1976, designed strictly for basketball. The touring event industry has changed a lot in 36 years. A new arena is needed.
But I'd guess we've lost many big-name acts because they can make more money in other places with more disposable income along the east-west touring routes, like Albuquerque and Lubbock.
Maybe once the stadium and all the other good stuff are built, we'll attract more business, our economy will grow and bigger acts can collect bigger paychecks here. I'm sure that's part of the math behind these propositions.
Price tag: $180 million.
There. I've spent about $380 million and still have $60,000,000 for parks and all the other stuff in the propositions. Hey, maybe they can build a zip-line at the Wyler Aerial Tramway.