This could be the next-to-last year that Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, Scottsdale’s most lucrative touristattracting event, revs up at WestWorld — or any East Valley locale.
The 900-plus classic cars — and those who come to eye and buy them — are likely to be parking in Glendale in January 2007, said developer Steve Ellman, who expects to make space for the auto extravaganza in his new multipurpose arena and the 450 acres surrounding it.
"It would give me great pleasure," he said. "Scottsdale may not like it, but it’s a great opportunity for the Valley. And Barrett-Jackson is a Valley event."
The prize for snagging Barrett-Jackson is an economic bonanza. Scottsdale estimates auction attendees leave local hotels, shops and restaurants $73 million flusher every year.
If Barrett-Jackson moves — the principals say a deal is close, but not finalized — it would be the latest in a rash of major events to leave the East Valley.
Two of the Valley’s four major sports teams — the Arizona Cardinals and the Phoenix Coyotes — headed west.
The Cardinals are leaving Tempe. The Coyotes had planned to set down stakes in Scottsdale but jumped ship to Glendale when Scottsdale officials stalled in making a deal for an arena at the failed Los Arcos shopping center site.
In January 2007, the Fi esta Bowl, a nearly $200 million annual infusion to the local economy now played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, is slated to move to the Arizona Cardinals stadium, followed a year later by the Super Bowl.
Barrett-Jackson president Craig Jackson has been complaining for years about WestWorld’s portable restrooms, mud-caked fields for the pricey cars and their admirers to slosh around in and a lack of parking. This year, Jackson added an extra day and 100 cars to sell, and taxed WestWorld’s facilities.
After a year of talks and three months of negotiations, Ellman said Glendale has solved all the problems the auction is encountering in Scottsdale. The plan includes moving the auction into the high-tech Coyotes arena with its own TV broadcasting capabilities, jumbo screens, 35,000 parking spots, catering capabilities for 20,000 and 600 full-time staff that can move 1,000 cars in and out quickly, Ellman said.
Barrett-Jackson spokesman Jason Rose said the company is negotiating with Glendale and the Gila River Indian Community, which recently wrested Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse from Scottsdale.
Gila River spokesman Gary Bohnee said the tribal government has not received a proposal for accommodating Barrett-Jackson. But he said government-backed corporations, such as Wild Horse Pass Authority, which snagged Rawhide, could be hammering out a proposal to present to the Tribal Council.
Rose said both venues would make good options.
"It’s no secret that Glendale would make a dynamite site, but we’ve had terrific meetings with members of the Gila River, too, over the past couple of years, and conversations with both are going to continue," Rose said.
Scottsdale leaders said they haven’t given up but admitted Barrett-Jackson’s recent growth spurt has stretched WestWorld’s capabilities.
"The question is, will the growth continue or even out," said Scottsdale City Manager Jan Dolan.
Rose was not optimistic that the car show — which this year has crammed every available foot of its allotted space with tents and cars and shoved most of the parking to FBR Open land across the freeway — could stay at WestWorld for long.
"Craig is interested in a site for the long term, not having to move again in five years or 10 years," Rose said. "And clearly Glendale and Gila River have synergies."
Roger Klingler, Scottsdale’s assistant city manager, has been working out issues between Barrett-Jackson and WestWorld. He said improvements are planned.
"We’ll do everything possible to provide good accommodations here," Klingler said.
Dolan said she thinks the city still has a chance to save the show — or at least a portion of it — for Scottsdale.
"Craig told me as recently as two days ago that he was in negotiations with others, but that he’d like to stay here if we can work things out," she said.
Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said Glendale is not trying to steal the show from Scottsdale.
"This isn’t about one side of the Valley trying to win over another," she said. "It’s about a business person trying to do the best for his business."