Scottsdale’s yearslong tussle with the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction has provided some degree of entertainment for local residents as much as it has created headaches for the principals.
Both city and event want to keep the worldfamous, internationally televised auction at its home at WestWorld of Scottsdale. Yet although the parties have been talking lately after years of mis- and noncommunication, the elusive multi-year agreement that is expected to result still hasn’t been realized.
Many of auction executive Craig Jackson’s traditional beefs have been satisfied, most notably in the area of improvements to drainage and traffic circulation that had been festering for years. What appears to be the biggest remaining sticking points involve parking and future facilities.
As the Tribune’s Ari Cohn reported Monday, while the city has spent $32 million to buy 69 acres of state trust land for parking, an auction spokesman pointed out that it’s land that the event has been using already for parking under a state permit. The auction is projecting that still more land will be needed as the event grows in prestige and attendance through the years.
Also as Cohn reported, the auction has been pushing for a permanent exhibition hall to replace the connected series of mega-tents where the event is held now. Even city officials have said that its purchase of a slightly used 90-foot-tall tent emblazoned with two large American flags to go up at WestWorld was a temporary measure, but there is no agreement yet on a permanent replacement.
Part of that is due to the fact that such a building would have be sufficient to the needs of the auction, which would be its largest tenant, and those of several other events — mostly equestrian — that are held at WestWorld throughout the rest of the year.
It stands to reason that talks about this facility should include representatives of the other major events. An accord between the interests of horse and car may not be easy, and certainly there are historical antecedents showing these interests to be naturally at odds.
But some permanent building has to be built, sooner rather than later, and every user’s needs have to be addressed.
Barrett-Jackson has put on the table its buying nine acres for an auction house, headquarters and museum. That might mean two exhibition facilities at WestWorld, one the auction would build for itself, and another the city would build for everything else. Both sides should come to agreement as soon as possible over whether this should happen, as that decision has implications upon other issues.
As has been traditional, each side has had criticism of the other as each claims to want to come to an agreement. Fine. Rhetoric has its place. But it should not dominate the discussion and it should not direct it.
Scottsdale leaders should remember how close the city came to losing the auction to Glendale a few years ago, and auction officials should know the lofty prestige of their event is intimately linked with its location in Scottsdale, a place far better known — in fact, the bestknown in this state — for high-end living and high-end spending and seeing and being seen. As Cohn reported, the annual auction brings $96 million into the local economy. The stakes are high. City and event should bring down the gavel on a deal sooner, not later.
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