Panel discusses sports venues in the Valley - East Valley Tribune: Business

Panel discusses sports venues in the Valley

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Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2004 5:59 am | Updated: 4:44 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The East Valley won’t be completely shut out for new and renovated sports venues now that the Cardinals and Coyotes have looked westward for their new homes.

But the eastside sports investments will be pretty thin compared with the massive projects in the West Valley, according to veterans of the Valley’s sports wars.

The discussion about the politics and legal battles over sports stadiums was part of a symposium Friday on travails of the sport business sponsored by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business and College of Law.

There was no common theme running through the discussion because each of the Valley’s major sports franchises and the ASU sports department have had to face their own challenges, especially in developing new arenas and stadiums, the panelists said.

"Everything is local, and everything is different," said Mike Bidwill, vice president of the Arizona Cardinals, which won a public vote in 2000 to build the team’s new National Football League stadium in Glendale. "The noncookie cutter approach the Cardinals went through to pass Proposition 302 was much different from any other (approach used) to get public financing for the hockey arena, the (America West Arena) basketball stadium or Bank One Ballpark."

No public votes were needed for America West Arena or Bank One Ballpark, but the public reaction against the use of tax money to finance those venues made a public vote essential for the Cardinals stadium, he said.

After losing a vote in Mesa, Maricopa County voters approved the use of hotel and car rental taxes to help finance the stadium by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.

The Phoenix Coyotes also went the election route, winning two votes in Scottsdale for a new hockey arena.

But a lack of support for the project by the City Council caused the team owners to look elsewhere, and they found more accommodating city leaders in Glendale.

The Coyotes’ experience showed that even with public acceptance, support by politicians is essential to build new sports venues with the help of public money, said Bob Kaufman, senior vice president and general counsel for the hockey team.

"None of these things would happen without the political will, the strength of the backbone of the politicians involved," he said.

"In Scottsdale, we were drifting in the wind. In Glendale, there was a very strong mayor and a very strong city council."

In return for the public investment, the areas around new sports complexes benefit economically, panelists said. Construction of America West Arena contributed to revitalization of downtown Phoenix, and within a year of its completion 30 new restaurants opened in the area, said Jay Ruffner, sports practice attorney for the Fennemore Craig law firm.

The East Valley will benefit from some new sports facilities if there is sufficient local support, said Charles Foley, chief financial officer of the Maricopa County Tourism and Sports Authority.

The authority, established under Proposition 302 to build and manage the Cardinals stadium, Cactus League baseball fields and youth and amateur sports facilities, is working with Scottsdale on spring training practice facilities for the San Francisco Giants, Foley said.

Also Tempe may get a new spring training team for Tempe Diablo Stadium if the authority and the Anaheim Angels agree on plans to build a new complex for the California team in Goodyear, he said.

ASU athletic director Gene Smith said the university plans renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena at the Tempe campus.

"Sun Devil Stadium has about $12 million in deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed pretty soon," he said. "We anticipate in the next couple of years we will be announcing a campaign to renovate Sun Devil Stadium."

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