The Super Bowl will attract about 150,000 visitors to the Valley during the next 10 days, and taxes on their hotel rooms and rental cars will help pay off the cost of building the host stadium.
Maricopa County voters approved the tax package in 2000 that funded what was to become University of Phoenix Stadium. The measure boosts taxes on hotel rooms by 1 percent and on rental cars by 3.25 percent for 30 years.
Youth sports and Cactus League baseball facilities also benefit.
To the backers of Proposition 302, the presence of the National Football League’s championship game proves the measure has been an unqualified success. Not only have stadiums been built, they say, but the taxes have formed something of a perpetual-motion machine: Big events and new venues bring more tourists, and the tax money they generate can go toward drawing even more visitors.
“It really has been sort of self-financing,” said Chuck Foley, chief financial officer for the agency that handles the revenue.
The money has also been spent on luring major league baseball teams away from Florida for spring training. Since the passage of Prop. 302, the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers have all abandoned the Grapefruit League and moved to Arizona.
A fifth team could follow.
“Our main goal was to take care of our existing teams,” said J.P. de la Montaigne , Cactus League president. “As revenues enhanced, we were able to do a little bit more, so that was a good thing.”
How good? Last year, baseball fans spent nearly $311 million in Arizona, according to the Cactus League.
Most of the Prop. 302 money goes toward the debt incurred from University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority pegged the construction cost at $457 million, and Foley said the Arizona Cardinals pitched in $145 million.
So far, the sports and tourism authority has committed $160 million to the Cactus League. For that money, Surprise Stadium was built and renovations were made to stadiums in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Funding was also committed to new parks in Glendale and Goodyear. Prop. 302 gives the Cactus League the edge over its Florida competitor because the Grapefruit League has no dedicated funding source for ballpark improvements. Florida teams sometimes lobby cities or the state for money, but their pleas often go unanswered.
Earlier this week, Sarasota County officials rejected the Cincinnati Reds’ request of $18 million to renovate its spring stadium.
Before the vote, team officials visited Goodyear in the West Valley, where Prop. 302 money is helping to build a baseball complex.
“They took me on a tour of the city, which is beautiful, and the spring training site is going to be beautiful,” the team’s chief operating officer, John Allen, told the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. “They want us as a second team to go with the Cleveland Indians, and they know our wants and needs.”
The Indians are leaving their aged Winter Haven facilities in Florida after this spring’s schedule is complete.
The Arizona Office of Tourism receives 5 percent of the tax revenue generated, which totals $33 million to date. That money is devoted toward increasing visitor interest solely in Maricopa County locations.
Tourism officials consider that funding an excellent buy. They say that every dollar invested in promotion results in $15 spent here.
A slice of tax revenue also goes to youth sports. The sports and tourism authority has distributed $11.3 million so far to various programs.
Two recent recipients are the Tempe Family YMCA and Pinnacle Soccer Academy of Scottsdale. Both received $1,200 to purchase sports equipment such as basketballs and soccer nets.
“We’ve applied for grants all over, and they were the most helpful in working with us,” Pinnacle President Jay Wolpe said.
Tempe YMCA executive director Vinny Mirizio said his organization also benefits from the funding of improvements at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The YMCA is one of the benefactors of the Diablos charity organization, which raises money through concessions and parking during Los Angeles Angels games every spring.
“We’re very blessed,” Mirizio said.