EDINBURG, RGV – Edinburg leaders say the new $88 million Bert Ogden Arena will be ready by the end of July.

Tomas Reyna, director of public works for the City of Edinburg, gave a brief update on the project during a city council meeting this week. The City of Edinburg owns the entertainment facility. Reyna said the project is slated to be complete by July 31. 

Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina

Interviewed after the meeting, Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina said Reyna’s presentation was placed on the agenda by new City Manager Pilar Rodriguez.

“We are so close to the finish that people want to know where we are at. A lot of people have been saying, ‘hey, are you guys going to meet the deadline.’ Alonzo says he is, so, I am hoping. We want to get it up and running,” Molina said.

The “Alonzo” Molina was referring to is local businessman Alonzo Cantu. Cantu donated the land for the arena, has paid for half the construction, and will, through Cantu Entertainment, operate the facility. It will be home to the Vipers basketball team   and feature professional boxing, wrestling and music concerts.

Asked about Reyna’s presentation about the arena, Molina said 93 percent of the monies from the bond issue have been paid, and that the City of Edinburg will pay $46 million for the project, over a 30-year period. “I am excited about the project,” Molina said.

Hidalgo County’s contribution to the project is about $12 million.

Fern McClaugherty

Prior to Reyna’s presentation, Fern McClaugherty, leader of the OWLS watchdog group, was allowed to ask questions of the arena project. Molina said McClaugherty had the right to pitch her questions and that city manager Rodriguez would get back to her with answers. 

“She probably knows the answers to most of those questions because she has come and asked them before. It is something we are familiar with,” Molina said.

The arena project was a hot issue during the last mayoral and city council election. Asked if the new city council is in support of the project, Molina said: “We are in support of the arena 100 percent. This arena needs to succeed for the region, not just the city of Edinburg. We have all these big concerts coming up, they have advertised WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). They have advertised major concerts. Major boxing events. We are hoping it generates the momentum we are expecting.”

Asked if the arena will put Edinburg on the map in terms of regional entertainment, Molina said: “It will put Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley on the map because south of San Antonio you do not have an arena that size. You are not going to have performers that big. We are looking forward to the first concert. We are hopeful of a sell-out.”

Prior to the start of the city council meeting, city council members met in private session to discuss the arena project. No action was taken afterwards but it was agreed the city attorney’s office would meet with Cantu Construction officials.

Asked about that upcoming meeting, Molina said: “We are just crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s. We are at the finish and we want to make sure everything is ready to go as projected. It is a situation that is very unique in the sense that, we are the landlord and he (Cantu) is the tenant. He is going to occupy it for 30 years. It has to be up to par with the different building codes of the city. It is like a walk-thru. That is what we are doing.”

Asked to address “rumors” that there could be potential litigation, Molina laughed off the notion.

“We are waiting to see this thing opened. We want to see it finished. It is like the final walk-thru when you are buying a house. Making sure the faucets are working, that everything in the agreement is working. Then you move in. We just want to make sure everything is ready to go.”

Asked what his expectation for the Bert Ogden Arena is, Molina said: “We are looking for this thing to explode, if everything goes as projected. We have a lot riding on this. We have a lot invested in this. It is not, hey, this thing is going to work. It has got to work. We are 100 percent behind it.”

Molina said the city council has an obligation to protect the financial interests of city taxpayers.

“We want to make sure the taxpayers are where we are at because a lot of these agreements were done with the previous mayor. We just want to make sure that the taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. There is a cautiousness but at the same time we are excited to get this thing going.”

To illustrate his excitement, Molina said he would be attending the first concert the arena stages. “That is when you will get the vision. A lot of it is talk, until we see it. We are looking for it to have impact.”

A reporter noted that the Bert Ogden Arena will also serve as anchor for a million square feet retail plaza next to I-69 Central. Molina responded: “Out on the frontage there are some pad sites they (Cantu) own. They already have some people that will rent those pad sites. So, we are hoping that finally comes to fruition. That is part of the agreement. I have not heard anything different.”

Asked what the total cost of the arena project will be, Molina said: “The total cost of the arena, our part, was $30 million for 30 years. That has gone up to $46 million over 30 years because there was some infrastructure that was done on Alberta Road. You can see the widening of the road there, going all the way to I-Road. There were also some extras that were put in, an upgrade to the arena. I think they went up to a couple of thousand seats. There were some upgrades that were done in the middle of the $30 million. That got us up to $46 million over a 30 year period.”

Anything above the $46 million is being borne by Cantu, Molina said. 

“Mr. Cantu is responsible for all the costs after that. He has matched the amount of money we put up plus the land. When your business partner comes up with some land, that goes a long way.”

Reinforcing his hope that the arena becomes a first-class entertainment venue, Molina said: “I want to see this thing jam-packed.”

As for the OWLS watchdog group, their opposition to the arena continues. The group fears that once the entertainment complex is up and running, any opposition by the new city council will dissipate and that soon after council-members will claim credit for its development.

Here are the questions McClaugherty asked the city council:

  • Did the developer meet all the requirements as stated in the Edinburg Local Guidelines for the Public Private Partnerships approved October 2, 2012?
  • What is the current bond debt in reference to the project?
  • What is the anticipated completion date?
  • Is it correct that based on the existing contract the City is committed to pay a maintenance fee plus all utilities for the facility for the next 50 years? 
  • Generally, how much is the monthly or annual cost anticipated to be?
  • What is the anticipated tax impact resulting from the sports arena ($88 million) and the health clinic ($10 million) located on Palm Drive?
  • The economic evaluation initially submitted supporting the City’s participate in the sports arena was prepared by UT-Rio Grande Valley. Is this report available to the public?
  • Did the City of Edinburg advertise for bids concerning the construction of the sports arena?

McClaugherty interrupted her questions with a jab, saying she would “love” to have her utilities paid by the city council for the next 50 years. She concluded her remarks by saying: “Every time I drive by that construction, my blood pressure goes up big time.”


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