A Southern Arizona lawmaker wants taxpayers from his area — and around the entire state — to help Glendale pay its costs of hosting next year's Super Bowl. And Gov. Jan Brewer, a Glendale resident, said she's willing to consider it, though she's not yet sold on the idea.
The proposal by House Minority Leader David Gowan would set up a fund of up to $4 million the city could tap, mainly for overtime for police officers. The Sierra Vista Republican the event will benefit the entire state, with those who come to Glendale next February also spending time — and money — everywhere from Tombstone to the Grand Canyon.
The measure is not limited to the Super Bowl. Any community which lands some special event would also be eligible for reimbursement, like if Phoenix gets the 2016 Republican National Convention or Glendale hosts the NCAA Final Four sometime between 2017 and 2020. It would not cover events that come to Arizona anyway, like the Fiesta Bowl or the Phoenix Open.
The plan is getting a mixed reaction from lawmakers who question whether there are sufficient benefits to the entire state — if any — to justify having the costs borne by all taxpayers. Even the governor, who said she believes such events are good for the state, is reserving judgment.
“I think we need to see some more information to make a decision as to exactly how much of this we can do,” she told Capitol Media Services.
But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, already has made up his mind. He said cities and towns bid on these events under the premise that it will generate tax dollars.
“And then they turn around and say, ‘We can't afford it’?” he said. “That's absurd.”
Senate President Andy Biggs said he's willing to consider the issue, but he, too, expressed frustration with Glendale landing the bowl bid and now having its hand out.
“Glendale didn't see this coming?” Biggs asked. “They didn't prepare for this? They didn't know?”
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers acknowledged it's not like any of this is a surprise. In fact, the city bid on the event even after it was the host in 2008 — and after a study showed the city actually lost money.
Weiers, however, said he was not mayor when the bid for the 2015 game was submitted. He said he is doing the best he can to help his city which he thinks may not have gotten a particularly good deal.
He pointed out the fan-oriented NFL Experience will actually be in Phoenix. That event becomes a large temporary theme park that attracts thousands to its celebrity appearances, games and displays.
Weiers also said many of the glitzy parties — and the revenues they generate — will end up elsewhere. Worse yet, Weiers said, is fans are unlikely to stay in town because “Glendale has the least to offer as far as hotels and places to spend their money.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said any cost sharing should be limited to Maricopa County cities that are likely to reap any direct or indirect benefits.
“I don't see a whole lot of people coming in for something in Glendale and then spending a lot of money in Tucson,” he said.
Gowan said that reflects parochial thinking.
“It's going to benefit the state,” he said. “The state needs to make sure we're able to protect any citizens that come here.”
Gowan said he believes that those who fly in for the Super Bowl will spread the wealth.
“You're not just here for a day,” he said. “You're here for two, maybe three weeks.”
Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, said that's based on a premise the event has economic benefits to the Glendale area or the state.
“Subsequent economic studies of things such as the Olympics have not come out in the black,” he said. Kwasman said these events generate “a lot of good feelings” but little else concrete.
Others, however, see broad economic benefits. Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said just because the Super Bowl is in Glendale does not mean that's where everyone will be staying and spending money.
House Speaker Andy Tobin said there may be some merit to the concept, but he wants to be shown there really is a benefit to not only those in the immediate community but to his Northern Arizona constituents.
That's also the assessment of Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.
“I would have to have it clearly demonstrated to me that the state, collectively, is benefitting to such a substantial degree that it would then be in any way appropriate for us to assist them with some of those costs,” he said.
Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, acknowledged that his home town would be a “fly-over” city that would not get direct benefits from an event like this in Glendale. But Borrelli said that, as a former city councilman, he is sympathetic to the plight of cities that have to bear the costs of special events. He said he does believe that a big event like the Super Bowl can benefit the entire state.
The request by Weiers for state aid actually reflects a 180-degree change in philosophy.
In 2007 Glendale asked lawmakers for similar funding to cover the costs of the 2008 event. But Weiers, then a state representative, voted against the measure which eventually failed in the Senate.