Millions of dollars have been spent and many months have passed, yet no long-term deal has emerged to keep the lucrative Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale.
City officials say Scottsdale has spent roughly $46 million over the last 18 months in buying land and fixing up West-World of Scottsdale to meet Barrett-Jackson’s demands.
But Barrett-Jackson contends it can’t ink a long-term deal to stay at WestWorld unless the city can guarantee enough parking throughout the life of a potential 20- to 30-year agreement.
The company’s spokesman, Jason Rose, said officials also have left Barrett-Jackson in limbo as to whether the city intends to build a new venue at WestWorld, or if the city would sell the company land at the fa- cility on which to build a new auction house.
“Barrett-Jackson wants to remain in Scottsdale for the long term,” Rose said. “So often, it seems this has gotten unnecessarily and bizarrely confrontational.”
Besides invitation-only soirees over the weekend, today kicks off the 36th year of the car auction. Last year, bidders spent $100 million on vehicles, and the event brought an estimated $96 million to the local economy.
Barrett-Jackson has the option of renewing an annual agreement with Scottsdale to hold the auction at WestWorld — a city-run, 120-acre facility at 16601 N. Pima Road — within 30 days after the completion of each year’s event, said assistant city manager Roger Klingler.
Officials with the city and the auction house have expressed interest in signing a long-term agreement. Klingler said an offer of a 20-year contract has been in discussions for about 18 months.
“(Craig Jackson) had mentioned that he’d like a longterm agreement of about 20 years and we said, ‘Yeah, that’s reasonable,’” Klingler said.
In the meantime, the city has spent millions of dollars trying to meet Barrett-Jackson’s needs and make other general improvements at WestWorld.
City spokesman Pat Dodds said the city spent more than $32 million securing two pieces of land totaling 69 acres on the northeast side of WestWorld at a state auction in late 2005. The move was meant to secure the land’s continued use as overflow parking for West-World events.
Although the extra land benefits all types of events held there, it was something for which Barrett-Jackson had been pushing, Dodds said.
“It was very advantageous for the city’s efforts to keep Barrett-Jackson here,” he said. “It’s always been part of the master plan to provide sufficient parking for WestWorld events.”
Barrett-Jackson also has had concerns about traffic circulation, infrastructure and storm drainage at WestWorld. In response, the city spent millions in the summer of 2005 to develop a traffic circulation plan, buy a $4 million tent for Barrett-Jackson and equestrian events, realign roadways, pave a parking area, and improve drainage on the polo fields, he said.
“We did $14 million worth of improvements at WestWorld that summer,” Klingler said. “We did all of these things that help Barrett-Jackson, but also help all the other events at WestWorld.”
But Rose said the city’s purchase of state land for parking just preserved the status quo, since the land had already been used for parking in previous years through a state permit.
“It is unfair for the city to suggest that it has made all these improvements and Barrett-Jackson won’t sign,” he said. “The fact that the city now owns (the land) doesn’t change anything.”
About 250,000 people are expected to pass through the gates this year and 1,240 cars — 140 more than last year — are to be auctioned. And organizers said they expect the show to keep expanding.
There appears to be no reason it won’t.
The auction house just added two heavyweight corporate sponsors — Ford and General Motors — and the Speed Channel will be broadcasting 40 hours live from the event. Other events, such as a rock n’ roll memorabilia auction and a Johnny Cash collection also were added this year.
The land will not be able to sustain the increasing demand for parking as Barrett-Jackson’s auction grows over the next decades, Rose said.
“The city has not committed or described how it’s going to guarantee parking for that period of time,” Rose said. “Show us a long-term parking plan.”
He also said the city has been dragging its feet on plans to build a new multipurpose building at WestWorld that potentially could house future Barrett-Jackson auctions and other events.
In an effort to break a perceived block over whether the building should be geared more toward equestrian or general uses, Barrett-Jackson has offered to buy up to nine acres of vacant land at WestWorld.
When added to the company’s current seven-acre holding adjacent to the site, the nineacre purchase would provide enough land for Barrett-Jackson to relocate its corporate headquarters and build a television studio, a museum and an auction house.
“It was an offer made in good faith to try and make progress,” Rose said.
Klingler said the city is interested in the proposal, but Barrett-Jackson has put off any discussion until after its 2007 auction.
“We’ve asked (Jackson) for the details of what he’s interested in so we can make a deal and we’re waiting for him to get back to us,” Klingler said.