Stadium financing questioned by governor - East Valley Tribune: News

Stadium financing questioned by governor

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Posted: Friday, August 13, 2004 9:57 am | Updated: 5:07 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

August 13, 2004

Gov. Janet Napolitano demanded an explanation on Thursday from the state sports authority about a stalled financing plan critical to the new Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale.

Authority and Glendale officials have been unable to agree on a plan to fund $32 million worth of support infrastructure, such as sewers, and a plaza surrounding the 63,000-seat stadium.

Last month, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority officials offered to take responsibility for the overdue work that was supposed to have been part of Glendale’s contribution to the development. Glendale has not approved the new deal.

"We have requested a briefing from the (authority) on the Glendale financing issues," Napolitano’s spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said Thursday. "That request went out this afternoon."

Furthermore, three of Napolitano’s recent appointees to the authority’s board, Larry David Landry, Jonathan Garrett and Verna Mendez Pastor, were not informed by the authority’s staff of the impasse with Glendale, L’Ecuyer said. "We do find that troubling," she said.

The governor appoints five of the nine directors of the authority. The Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives appoint the remaining four.

In another development Thursday, authority president Ted Ferris and Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill sent a joint letter to Glendale City Manager Ed Beasley, urging the city to approve the new financing plan quickly.

"Time is of the essence. With each passing day and week, Glendale is putting the successful opening of this facility in jeopardy," they wrote.

The stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2006 NFL season. The Tribune obtained the letter late Thursday through a formal public records request.

Ferris and Bidwill wrotethat they are frustrated for several reasons:

• Glendale has not issued bonds for the infrastructure work as initially agreed.

• The city has not given final approval to an alternate plan devised July 13 that would allow the authority to issue bonds instead.

• City officials have started work on yet a second alternate plan.

"Frankly, we continue to be concerned about a new financing alternative being explored by the city. There is no time for fleshing out a new plan that is untested and lacks the support of the City Council," the authority and Cardinals officials wrote.

Neither Ferris, Bidwill nor Beasley could be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Glendale spokeswoman Stacy Pearson said the city is drafting a response, which could be ready as soon as today. City spokeswoman Julie Frisoni previously said the city has met all of its contractual obligations for the stadium.

Authority board member Roc Arnett said, "The Cardinals and the (authority) are working in good faith to try to help Glendale to do what they said they would do over a year ago."

Originally, terms called for the authority and the Cardinals to pay for construction of the stadium, and Glendale to pay for site preparation.

Costs for both aspects have escalated since the authority awarded the stadium to Glendale. The latest estimate for the stadium is pegged at $370.6 million; while site work, including associated road upgrades, is $61 million.

The alternate financing plan supported by the authority and the Cardinals calls for the authority to issue bonds that would be repaid using city sales tax collections at the stadium and parking surcharges.

Under the original scenario, Glendale would have issued the bonds and used the same sources to repay them.

Arnett said it was important to note that the same revenue streams were available to other cities that lost out in the bidding for the stadium two years ago.

The delay in issuing bonds in Glendale is making it increasingly difficult for officials to keep a happy face on the project.

"The television and newspaper reports regarding the construction of the Cardinals stadium have stated that this project is, so far, a success for the city, the authority and the Cardinals," Ferris and Bidwill told Beasley in an Aug. 3 letter.

"We want to be able to continue to tell the success story of the construction project. Any continued delay by the city, however, only further compromises our ability to do so."

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