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EDINBURG, RGV – Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia does not want to reveal ahead of time all the big announcements coming up in his State of the City 2017 address.

Nonetheless, he did make a splash with his speech at the 13th Annual State of Real Estate Forum hosted by Edwards Abstract & Title, Co. The event was held last Thursday at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

Garcia spoke about the emphasis TxDOT is giving to a connector from Edinburg to a planned second causeway to South Padre Island. He said UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey had told him that his wish is to have a football program established at the college by 2020, and that he (Garcia) had seen plans for a 35,000-seat stadium for the college football team. He also spoke about the possibility of Texas A&M University building a law school in the Rio Grande Valley.

Garcia’s reference to a new connector to South Padre Island came up when he spoke about La Sienna, the mast-planned community being built in north Edinburg. The retail component of this project is already under construction.

“The important part of that is right down the street is the new A&M development,” Garcia said, referencing the new campus Texas A&M is building at Tres Lagos in north McAllen. “Go past this area and TxDOT is giving priority to extending Monte Cristo east, across 77, directly into the new causeway at the Island. That is big because this is going to become a major artery,” Garcia said.

With regard to UTRGV, Garcia noted that moves are underway to make the college a Tier One research entity. “Economists estimate every 10 million dollars in research expenditures will generate 300 new jobs and adds more than eight million dollars to the regional economy. That is why it is important to us,” Garcia said.

Another way of putting a university on the map, Garcia said, in addition to being a Tier One research facility, is to have a successful football program. He pointed out that UTRGV has hired a consultant to study the feasibility of such a program. Garcia said he is a “big proponent” of college ball.

“It is on its way. It is going to happen. (McAllen Mayor) Jim (Darling) and I are both friends of Dr. Bailey and we socialize as friends but we talk about business too and he (Bailey) wants to be playing ball here by 2020. This man is amazing. I believe he can get it done. We can all get it done together,” Garcia said.

The Edinburg mayor referenced McAllen Mayor Jim Darling because he, too, spoke at the real estate forum and was in the audience when Garcia spoke.

Garcia said he had seen plans for a football stadium for the college football team.

“The (basketball) arena is going to be large-seating capacity, about 10,000. The soccer stadium seats 12,000. The university president, some of the plans I have seen, the wish-list, the hope, is for a football stadium that is three times larger than the soccer stadium that we just built. That is huge. That (soccer stadium) seats 12,000. You are talking about 35,000 (for the football stadium). Unbelievable, amazing, but everything is doable. We have seen that in our area,” Garcia said, in his address to the realtors.

“Edinburg is becoming a magnet for growth. There is a lot of new interest,” Garcia said. However, he said that does not mean the fast-growing city is in competition with neighboring McAllen. “We are not competing. We are holding hands and growing together,” Garcia said.

The possibility of a law school coming to the Valley was brought up when Garcia mentioned that he recently met with the dean of the Texas A&M Law School. He said the school was created through the purchase of Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth.

“I had a meeting with the dean of the law school in the last couple of weeks. He is meeting with us to establish a local office for providing local help for people that need assistance in our area,” Garcia said. “For me, what that tells me is A&M Law School is looking at us. We will have that down here before too long. I am very excited about that. I know the public is not crazy about lawyers but we have to educate our children.”

In his remarks, Garcia also spoke about the $150 million Pharr Interchange project. He said this will help Edinburg grow. He also spoke about a $20 million project to improve drainage in downtown Edinburg. And he spoke about the planned State Highway 68 project, which will provide a link from Val Verde Road on I-2 in Donna to I-69 Central near South Texas International Airport in Edinburg.


In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after his speech, Mayor Garcia spoke about how the Valley’s inclusiveness was helping attract investors.

“I was talking recently to the person that opened the Slim Chicken’s. He is from Houston. He said, ‘Immediately I saw what was happening here.’ He said, ‘This is the most exciting community I have been in, in my lifetime.’ He’s a young man, I would guess mid-30s to 40-ish. He said, ‘I knew I had to be here, I knew I had to invest here.’ He said, ‘I love the inclusiveness, the acceptance, the diversity.’ I do not know exactly what his nationality is, I would guess, Middle Eastern-descent. That is just who we are and people are seeing that,” Garcia said.

Garcia gave another example of that inclusiveness, that acceptance of immigrants from other parts of the world.

“I had dinner recently with 20 doctors, some Syrian, some Indian. They just wanted to chat, with everything that is going on, what with immigration reform and restrictions and that sort of thing. What I am getting to is, they are here because of those very things we just talked about: inclusiveness. Some of them have been in Boston, some of them have been in Chicago, etc. They have moved to this area because it is very comfortable for their families. They have families just like you and I; they have kids and grandkids. Everybody fits in perfectly into this community.”

Asked, in his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, about college football coming to UTRGV, Garcia said: “College ball is very important to the identity to a university. Guy Bailey, having been at Alabama and Texas Tech is very much interested in that and the study that is being done in connection with that. One of his desires is to be playing ball by 2020. It is one of his passions and I share it with him, not because I am necessarily a sports fan but because I know what the economic impact will be.”

Garcia said Edinburg leaders have studied the impact college football has had on areas similar in size to Edinburg. “We are talking billions of dollars, the difference it makes to the economy, when you have a college team. So, we are very excited. I am about jobs and revenue.”

In past State of the City addresses, Mayor Garcia has spoken about Edinburg becoming a destination city. “This fits right into it. It would be just fabulous if you could have, along 281, the ability to exit for basketball, to exit for soccer, and to exit for college ball. It is exciting.”

Asked if it could happen soon, Garcia said: “Oh, yes, very doable. I do not see it as a pipedream. I see it as, it’s coming soon.”

Asked about Texas A&M building a law school in the Valley, Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian: “I see it heading in that direction. I think competition is always good. I think the medical school, a lot of the reason that it happened is because A&M was showing interest. In the meeting, I had recently with the dean of the law school, I feel and sense that interest.”


In his remarks at the 13th Annual State of Real Estate Forum, Mayor Darling of McAllen pointed out that the cities of McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr have a combined population of 400,000. Darling called these cities “The Big Four.” He said the mayors of these four cities met recently and there was no negativity. “Together we can act like a central city. To harness the synergy to bring dynamic growth,” Darling said.

Asked if the major Upper Valley cities are now working better together, Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian: “I think now we have a good, working coalition with the existing mayors. We are friends. We are all thinking regionally. Of course, we all think about our cities but we understand the importance and the impact we can have, both on the statewide level and the national level. We are one, exactly for that reason, the numbers. Now, people are looking in our direction to invest.”

Mayor Darling

Interviewed after his speech, Mayor Darling said Valley cities still compete but in a friendlier way.

“We probably compete, just as much as we used to. But, it is a different kind of competition. Before, we kind of pulled the other guy down. We have a great performing arts center. They (Edinburg) have a great arena. They will be able to put things in there. It is still competing but it is not pulling the other guy down,” Darling told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I think there are opportunities to work together. I am happy UTRGV is going to put something in Weslaco, for instance. I am happy STC is doing something in Pharr. I don’t think we go in anymore and say, don’t put it there. The worst thing UTRGV did, straight off the bat, was to put us in competition for the administrative office. That creates a lot of bad feelings. Examine it, talk to people and then put it where you should. But, don’t make us compete because that is not good for anybody.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Apolonio Sandoval, Jr., assisted with this story from Edinburg.