Opposition grows to closing El Rio - Tucson News Now

Opposition grows to closing El Rio

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Emotion and opposition to Grand Canyon University moving to El Rio Golf Course and the Barrio Hollywood neighborhood is beginning to take shape.

Tucson city leaders readily admit there have been talks with Grand Canyon about the 110 acre parcel but nothing is formal yet.

"There have been conversations about the possibility of Grand Canyon leasing or buying this piece of property," Ward 1 Tucson City council member Regina Romero said just before the city entered into a closed door session about the issue.

Romero was obviously bothered and somewhat angered by the way the closed door meeting was added to the council study session agenda.

The addendum item said it was about the "sale and lease" of the property.

"It's posted as a sale or lease," she said. "It is in fact not a conversation about a sale or lease."

The session was called by the Mayor for background purposes and nothing more she insisted.

She was concerned because it inflamed the passions in the neighborhood and was quick to note the meeting was only informational and no decisions would be made.

"There will not be a decision today made about the selling or leasing of any piece of property," she said as she admonished those responsible for adding the item to the agenda.

While her concern centered on the emotions of the neighborhood activists and quelling what seems to be in her opinion rampant rumors, for others the issue takes a different tact.

"This is nothing short of a betrayal of the public trust," Barrio Hollywood resident Scott Egan told a small group of activists gathered at the El Rio Neighborhood Center Monday night to talk strategy.

Egan, who retired from public service a year ago, says "previously we were told the decision was whether to keep it a golf course or to make it a park."

He says the decision to sell or lease has "come out of the blue."

"This is a new development for us," he says.

Egan may have an ally in Ward VI city council member Steve Kozachik who is concerned about a city agreement with the Tucson Conquistadors and First Tee.

They have a multi-year agreement with the city to host First Tee at El Rio.

First Tee is a national program to help get young people interested in the game of golf.

"The most important point is our contract with the Conquistadors is alive," he says. It's bad faith for us to negotiate with a third party behind their backs."

That could spell trouble he says but adds the Conquistadors don't want to go public.

"What I'm hearing from the Conquistadors is they don't want to get involved, they don't want to tick anyone off."

It's an issue which has likely just started to take on a life of its own.

"We just don't think golf and a green space, one hundred acres of green space, in our neighborhood which is so valuable to us, should be turned into cement and steel," Egan says.

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