The operator of the Mesa Verde immigration detention center on Golden State Avenue confirmed Thursday it will buy and bulldoze the nearby Bakersfield Dome events venue and El Morocco Motel, but denied the purchases are part of any plan to expand the federal holding facility.
Boca Raton, Florida-based The GEO Group Inc.'s intention in buying the properties by V and 22nd streets is to create a safe and secure buffer around Mesa Verde, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations Pablo E. Paez said by email.
"The purchase and demolition of these sites will eliminate those security and safety concerns and create a secure buffer between the Mesa Verde Facility and the rest of the surrounding neighborhood," Paez wrote. "We would reiterate that there are no plans to expand the Mesa Verde facility."
Questions about a possible expansion of Mesa Verde arose after The Dome's owner, Chencho Madera, said Tuesday he is in escrow to sell the property to GEO as part of a plan to expand the detention facility. Paez's email Thursday appears to be the company's first public statement on the purchase.
The Dome and the motel are located next to Mesa Verde, which since reopening in 2013 has served as a secure processing center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An ICE spokesman said Tuesday he had no information about an expansion of the facility.
While El Morocco continues to operate as a motel, Madera said The Dome will no longer host boxing, wrestling or other entertainment events, as it had since opening in the early 1940s.
How easy it will be for GEO to level The Dome remains to be seen, given the building's novel architecture and local significance. Bakersfield's development services director, Jacqui Kitchen, said Tuesday she was uncertain whether the building has some sort of historical designation that might complicate demolition plans.