EDINBURG, RGV – If the Rio Grande Valley is such a dangerous place to live, work and play, as some media outlets say, why are tens of millions of construction dollars being invested in the region?
This was the question posed by Edinburg Economic Development Executive Director Gus Garcia during a recent interview with the Rio Grande Guardian. Garcia pointed to multi-million investments being made in his city alone to build a new medical school, a new hospital tower, a new indoor arena, a new soccer stadium and a new courthouse.
“We have a lot of negative publicity going on. How can things be so bad here, according to the press, when so many things are happening here? When there is so much vibrant activity? It can’t be that bad if people are investing tens of millions of dollars here,” Garcia said.
Garcia did not mention any specific media outlet but one that has been criticized by Valley tourism and economic development leaders for its negative coverage of the region is the U.K. Daily Mail. It claimed Valley residents were living next to a war zone and were afraid to go out at night because of drug cartel and gang-related violence.
In his interview, Garcia focused on the positives, listing a number of the major construction projects currently underway or planned for his city. UT-Rio Grande Valley is building a $50 million engineering building at its Edinburg campus, UTRGV School of Medicine is building a $54 million medical education building at its Edinburg campus, and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is building a $180 million medical tower. The new Bert Ogden Arena, which will be the home of the RGV Vipers basketball team, is costing $68 million. The same construction company is building a $16.8 million soccer stadium, which will be home to the professional RGV Toros team. And, the City of Edinburg has committed $30 million to a new county courthouse.
“Education, medicine, government, housing, recreation and entertainment, whichever sector you look at, Edinburg is booming,” Garcia said. His analysis was borne out by new statistics issued by the City of Edinburg. In January, $36.2 million in new commercial and residential construction projects was reported, including $16.8 million for the new soccer stadium.
In his interview, Garcia focused on Edinburg’s growing reputation as destination city for entertainment. He said he is particularly pleased to see the soccer stadium being built because, he predicts, it will attract soccer fans from Mexico, San Antonio and Houston, as well as, potentially, national attention via ESPN-TV.
“When you talk about soccer, it is synonymous with Mexico. We will not only have our local team playing here, we will draw regional teams. We will have a Mexican national game. It has already been scheduled, international friendlies between Mexican professional teams and a USL team. We will have MSL teams come here. They are already committed. We will have exhibition games. We have the facility for CONCACAF games,” Garcia said.
“The stadium will hold 9,500 but it has the capacity to grow to, I think, to 24,000 seats. It has expandability. I guarantee you, if we are at capacity the Cantu group will say, we are losing out at a lot of revenue, we need to expand. We will have the hotel tax and tourism revenue to help. The country is looking at soccer as an emerging trend. If I am not mistaken, ESPN, in 2017, is going to start televising all B League team games. You might have ESPN filming from the Valley.”
Garcia said the new Bert Ogden Arena will be great for hosting concerts by artists that currently do not visit the Valley.
“We will have people come from Corpus, Falfurrias, the Valley, Laredo. When our entertainment group was talking to Live Nation, which is the largest promoter in the United States, there was a sweet spot that you had to have and that was 8,500 seats. Promoters need to have a certain number of seats to make the venue profitable and 6,500 was hard, according to Live Nation. It needed to be 8,500 to get the larger acts. So, we expanded,” Garcia said.
“We are going to attract some acts that have never come to the Valley before. When you bring those kinds of acts you bring people from outside the region. You are going to see people from Mexico come to see acts they previously had to go to San Antonio and Houston to see. We all know the impact the Mexican visitors have on our economy. It is huge. People are going to be coming to Edinburg and Mission and McAllen to eat, stay and utilize our facilities.”
Garcia predicted the new Hidalgo County Courthouse, part of Edinburg’s downtown revitalization project, will be “an economic driver for the whole area.” And, he said a big magazine feature article could be devoted to DHR’s new medical tower alone. The tower is being built next to the hospital’s current ER building. “What is it, 300 beds and 500 employees in the new tower? And these are going to be good paying medical jobs,” Garcia said.
Israel Rocha, CEO of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, said a groundbreaking ceremony for the new medical tower could happen within the six months. “It will have more than 300 beds and a 75-bed emergency room. It will bring new services to South Texas that were previously not available. We will have a lot of areas of specialization. We plan to have the comprehensive emergency department in South Texas, moving to a Level 2 and a Level 1 Trauma Center. These are our priorities,” Rocha told the Rio Grande Guardian.
In a news release, DHR said of the medical tower:
“DHR’s growth and expansion plans include a new multilevel medical tower that will house intensive care units dedicated to surgical, cardiovascular, neurosurgical, and orthopedic patients. The tower will also include a step-down telemetry unit, medical-surgical unit, and pediatric and adult burn units. DHR also plans to add more than 18 new operating rooms and expand its emergency room to 80 beds to include a heliport to grow into a Level I Trauma Center.”
The news release quoted Rocha as saying: “Since its inception, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has been committed to bringing the highest quality, state-of-the-art health medical care to the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Our community deserves to have every medical need met right here, close to home. This expansion will allow us to provide new specialty services, more treatment space, and a robust education program to train the healthcare providers of the future.”