EDINBURG, RGV – Even before its proposed opening, Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg is already slated for a major increase in size, according to developers.

At a regular meeting with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation earlier this week, representatives from Cantu Construction and NBA Development League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers announced that plans for the arena have been significantly expanded.

Bert Garcia
Bert Garcia

Originally slated to be 120,000 square feet and 6,500 seats, which is similar in size the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, the future arena will now be 189,000 square feet and 8,700 seats when it opens next year, according to RGV Vipers President Bert Garcia.

“I believe it just goes back to the philosophy to make sure that we are doing an adequate project for the community. It’s to make sure we are presenting a project that we invested in and that the community is also going to be invested in,” Garcia said following his presentation to the EDC.

“They (Edinburg) wanted to make sure that it was adequate for the size of growth being impacted right now. Right now they are growing at a rate that is probably higher than any other city in the Valley. I think they are taking that into consideration as well because they are looking at 10, 15 or even 30 years from now.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in February for the state-of-the-art arena, which is located at the corner of Interstate 69-Central and Alberta Road in Edinburg. The Bert Ogden Auto Group is arena’s naming rights sponsor. The RGV Vipers will serve as the anchor tenant of the new arena, and will start is 10th season in the facility in the fall of 2016. In addition to being the home of the RGV Vipers, the Bert Ogden Arena will host a variety of musical and entertainment acts year round.

At the time of the groundbreaking, Garcia predicted Edinburg would become the sports and entertainment hub of the region. “A few miles away, we are wrapping up construction on a state-of-the-art practice facility and community center. Not only does Edinburg serve as the county seat, but now, it is also becoming the sports and entertainment hub of the Rio Grande Valley,” he said at the time.

Representatives from the Vipers say that because the arena is designed specifically around the basketball court, fans will enjoy a more intimate sports setting. The facility will also display a jumbotron that measures 40-by-20 feet, the largest in the NBA Development League.

The Bert Ogden Arena will be funded by a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) sales taxes.

TIRZs are special zones created by a governmental body, such as a city council, to attract new investment to an area. Hidalgo County is participating in the TIRZ for the arena, having earlier participated in the TIRZ for the nearby Shoppes retail project on Trenton Road.  Taxes attributable to new improvements (tax increments) are set-aside in a fund to finance public improvements within the boundaries of the zone. TIRZs help finance the cost of redevelopment and encourage development in an area that would otherwise not attract sufficient market development in a timely manner.

The arena is estimated to cost $68 million, with $30 million from bonds using TIRZ and EEDC taxes and $38 million funded by a private developer. The arena will be owned by the City of Edinburg and operated by the RGV Vipers.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia (no relation) said at the time of the groundbreaking: “This joint venture is a tremendous opportunity for the City of Edinburg to improve the quality of life for residents without having to pay a single penny up front or take any away from other projects. This is definitely a triumph for our residents. We are very excited about this project.”

At the EEDC meeting, Bert Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian that the final cost of the project ultimately goes back to the private entity, Cantu Construction.

“I think the final cost does go back to the difference of what the TIRZ money and bond money was capped out…the difference goes back to the private entity, which is Mr. Alonzo Cantu,” Garcia said. “I think we are happy with what we have in store. I think we’re happy with that the building is going to look like. We’re happy with what will be returned from this. We are satisfied with where we are at.”

The decision to increase the size of the arena was decided recently, maybe within the last three to six months, according to Garcia.

EEDC board members said they had been aware of the change for some time as the initial plans for the facility accommodated a small, medium or large arena from the start, according to EEDC chairman Mark Iglesias.

“I know Alonzo (Cantu) has always wanted to build a state-of-the-art facility, and he wanted everything upgraded. That’s one of the reasons we went up in square footage,” Iglesias said.

“Of course, we have been aware that he wanted to increase the size. Bert (Garcia) finally confirmed that they were going to go ahead and proceed with that option. They had three options for facilities that they wanted to build or so we have been aware. Of course, a bigger facility is a bigger attraction for us, so we’re happy with that moving forward.”

The EEDC’s executive director is Agustin “Gus” Garcia. He said at the groundbreaking ceremony: “The arena from day one brings $30 million in private dollars into our community. A recent study conducted at the University of Texas-Pan American identified $95 million in direct economic impact in the first year and $45 million every year after, while creating more than 150 jobs for the area.”