Glendale suspended negotiations with the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction last week — just days before the event’s president presented a list of big-ticket demands to Scottsdale.
Glendale’s new sportsentertainment-shopping complex was considered by many to be the most likely future venue for the lucrative tourism draw, which is outgrowing its longtime annual stage at West-World of Scottsdale, the city’s equestrian and special events park.
Barrett-Jackson spokesman Jason Rose confirmed Tuesday that Glendale and Barrett-Jackson president Craig Jackson stopped talking. But Rose said that is not what spurred Jackson to deliver the ultimatum to Scottsdale last week.
"Craig’s heart has always been in Scottsdale," Rose said. "He’s represented that from day one. He was forced to look at other options."
Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs would not say what sticky issues may have killed a deal for the West Valley city.
"We made our best and final offer based on what we understood (Jackson) wanted to accomplish," Scruggs said. "Either there was a deal there or not."
Glendale City Attorney Craig Tindall said it was not one particular issue that kept the parties from an agreement.
"We’d like Barrett-Jackson in Glendale, but it has to be the right deal for our citizens," Tindall said.
Rose said Barrett-Jackson is now concentrating its efforts on Scottsdale, with negotiations to begin in earnest Thursday. But he said if Scottsdale can’t meet the show’s needs, or if a crucial land purchase isn’t concluded in September, "all options are still there, until a long-term agreement is signed."
Rose said several other municipalities, including the Gila River Indian Community and Las Vegas, want the show. And Glendale’s snubbed offer could get a second look.
Scottsdale may not be an easy sell either, with questions remaining about what role equestrians will play in West-World’s future.
A flurry of activity began June 23 when Jackson sent Scottsdale City Manager Jan Dolan a letter demanding that negotiations begin immediately on major improvements to the equestrian center or the auction will move.
Jackson wants the city to purchase 52 acres of state land adjacent to WestWorld for parking, build a 315-foot-wide air conditioned tent and 220,000-square-foot multiuse center and an off-ramp from Loop 101 that runs directly into the venue.
Late Monday night, Jackson and Dolan released a joint statement announcing that both sides agreed to negotiate with a three-month deadline on striking an agreement. That deadline coincides with a planned state land sale crucial to the deal.
Rex Wager, publisher of the monthly equestrian newspaper Bridle & Bit, said debate over the auction stirred by Jackson’s recent demands has brought needed attention and money to WestWorld.
"So far, what’s been good for Craig Jackson has been good for the horse people," Wagner said.
But Councilwoman Betty Drake said the auction might threaten horse-related events. In fact, one of Jackson’s demands is for exclusive use of WestWorld during a seven to 10-day period in January. For several years, Barrett-Jackson has shared the venue with a horse show.
Some of the items Jackson wants are already included in a $56 million package of West-World improvements that went before the City Council Tuesday night , drawn up as part of the city’s efforts to keep Barrett-Jackson. Among them is a $30 million multiuse center and the land purchase, for which the city has budgeted $18 million.
In 2001, the city hired Brad Gessner to shore up the center’s finances and book more events.
He has accomplished both, but equestrians argue it has been at the expense of horse events, which have grown in number but shrunk as an overall percentage of WestWorld’s business. City Auditor Cheryl Barcala said her office is about to launch a review of WestWorld to determine if Scottsdale has developed the center appropriately, according to federal government restrictions.
The city leases WestWorld land from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Under a July 1982 contract, Scottsdale committed to operate the space as a public park for horse riders.
Since then, ownership and control of WestWorld, originally titled Scottsdale Horseman’s Park, has changed hands many times. The struggle has consistently centered on whether the center should be used for general-interest events or simply as a place to ride horses and hold equestrian shows.