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City of Edinburg eying H-E-B Park acquisition for UTRGV football

The city of Edinburg may attempt to purchase H-E-B Park with the aim of making it the home of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley football.

Officially, the city is declining to comment on a potential acquisition push, though two councilmen said last month that one’s in the works and the University of Texas System appears to be laying the groundwork to play football at the facility.

According to a university spokesman, on Tuesday the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted to allow UTRGV to purchase H-E-B Park from the city — should the city wind up becoming the owner.

Built on the site of the old Super Splash water park on South Raul Longoria Road in Edinburg, H-E-B Park opened in 2016.

The cornerstone amenity of the 40-plus acre site is a 9,700-seat soccer stadium, home of the RGV FC Toros.

The facility also hosts things like concerts and community events. During the pandemic, H-E-B Park served as a mass testing site for COVID-19, the largest in the Valley.

Courtesy of H-E-B Park’s Facebook Page

Hidalgo County tax records put the gross value of the property at $15.7 million.

They indicate the property is owned by Toros Stadium LLC. State records describe South Texas business magnate Alonzo Cantu as the registered agent of that company.

Cantu said Wednesday that he wasn’t aware of any effort to buy the facility.

Is a sale possible? Perhaps, Cantu said.

“Depends on what the terms are and what it is. I don’t mind helping the university and city of Edinburg, with the kids over here,” he said.

The university plans to play its first football game in 2025. It hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a $45 million athletic facility for the football team Tuesday and has so far received deposits from fans for 2,500 season tickets.

There’s been talk of H-E-B Park being the place to play UTRGV football since the facility opened, long before UTRGV football was a foregone conclusion.

Since UTRGV football became a reality, that notion became more concrete.

The university frequently described H-E-B Park as a likely venue for the majority of the program’s home games in 2021 and 2022.

Chasse Conque, UTRGV vice president and director of athletics, praised H-E-B Park as one of the “crown jewels” of Valley sports facilities in an interview with the university’s student newspaper last year.

The university never elaborated on whether playing at the site would mean a purchase or a lease or some other kind of arrangement.

Despite the enthusiasm for the facility and the program’s momentum, concrete plans to play ball at the venue failed to materialize and the decision appears to have been up in the air for most of this year.

It’s not abundantly clear why, but the university and the facility never seem to have reached a deal on their own. During the apparent stall, other interested parties began stepping in.

Around May of this year, Edinburg CISD explored purchasing the facility, hoping to charge UTRGV to play there, according to former school board president Mike Farias.

“So it would have been a paid for stadium because of the planets lining up correctly with UTRGV, the football coming in — it was all really a positive, profitable situation, but at the end of the day, it didn’t work out,” he said.

According to Farias, Cantu offered to halve the appraisal price for the facility if the district moved toward a purchase. Farias called it a “blessing.”

“Mr. Cantu, in my opinion, wanted to help us out with giving us that deal. Which — it’s a heck of a deal and we would have had use for it,” he said.

At the end of May, however, Farias wound up being bumped out of the president seat after a power shift on the school board. The deal never went anywhere.

After that, the university opened up to considering a different venue altogether.

UTRGV considered at least one other prospective venue this summer — McAllen ISD’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

That facility will soon boast a swanky new press box, built at least in part in hopes of making the stadium an option for collegiate ball.

The university met with district staff about the stadium on at least one occasion.

Those talks, however, also failed to bear any fruit.

Ultimately, UTRGV football appears to be back where it started, with the addition of the city of Edinburg working as a sort of intermediary.

Both City Councilman Jason De Leon and now-former city councilman Johnny Garcia told the Progress Times in November that an acquisition deal was in the works.

De Leon was the more candid of the two, though he largely declined to get into the finances of the prospective arrangement, which he said were fluid.

“So I don’t want to say much until we have more concrete information,” he said.

De Leon did say that, ultimately, a final acquisition deal might be funded through a combination of monies cobbled together from the city, its economic development corporation and the university.

Keeping UTRGV football in Edinburg, De Leon said, would provide the city with a lucrative economic driver.

It’s not clear what a sale would mean for the Toros.

De Leon said he doesn’t see the city of Edinburg going into the business of operating a soccer team, and said so far the Toros haven’t proven to be the economic driver the city hopes UTRGV football will be.

“It wasn’t a hit, unfortunately. But sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed,” he said of the Toros.

Last week, the Toros announced the departure of Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera after a total of four years with the program.

The club didn’t elaborate on Cabrera’s exit.

 

2 Comments

  1. Luis Botello on December 1, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    If UTRGV is willing to purchase the stadium, city of Edinburg and Edinburg School District should stay out of the deal of Purchasing it.

  2. Tommy on December 20, 2023 at 4:53 pm

    Can we get back the tax money used to built it?

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