Phoenix officials kick off monthlong campaign to whine directly at local residents about how great a new arena would be

On Saturday, the Phoenix city council held the first of its public hearings on the Suns arena proposal, part of a series scheduled after officials were chastened by the massive public disdain for the $168 million subsidy plan. So then, of course, they mostly lectured residents about how dumb they were to pass up such an amazing deal:

Christine Mackay, director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Phoenix, presented the deal as an inevitable move necessary to foster continued downtown development and economic growth. She credited the arena with transforming the downtown area, generating an annual economic impact of $182 million and attracting other businesses to the area.


Earlier in the week, Mackay told the Phoenix Business Journal she wanted to clear up misunderstandings about who owns the arena and how renovations would be funded.

“This is not a tax on our citizens,” Mackay said. “I’m looking forward to get these facts out.”

Ah, the old “but only tourists pay these taxes!” argument. This is, for one thing, untrue — car-rental taxes are in fact often paid by locals, who are renting a car for temporary use or whatever — but more to the point, beside the point: It’s money the city could be spending on something else if it weren’t giving it to Suns owner Robert Sarver.

Mackay’s other argument in favor of the subsidy is that the city owns the arena, and so is responsible for upgrades. Okay, but the city doesn’t manage the arena or earn any additional profits if it makes more from either NBA games or concerts — that’s all Sarver. So if you own a building that is rented out by a private business and you make a bunch of upgrades that will solely benefit your tenant, you should ask them to repay you via higher rent, right? But while the Suns’ rent is projected to increase from $1.5 million to $4 million in a renovated arena, some of that is just plain old price inflation having nothing to do with renovations, and regardless, an extra $2.5 million a year would take 67 years to repay the city’s expense. (In present value terms, the city would never ever be made whole, because rent payments 67 years in the future are worthless, if the NBA even exists then.)

Anyway, from what reporting there has been, it sounds like attendees at the session (all 150 of them) were split about whether they bought Mackay’s arguments or not, which is just yet another unscientific poll. I’m honestly not sure what the point is of this monthlong series of dog-and-pony shows, other than to persuade swing-vote councilmembers that look, it’s cool, when we present our Powerpoints to the masses, some of them agree with us. I mean, I am sure that’s the point, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work, but then, I do not pretend to comprehend the uncanny ways of the Phoenix city council.

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13 comments on “Phoenix officials kick off monthlong campaign to whine directly at local residents about how great a new arena would be

  1. has anyone told the Suns there is an arena in suburbs that I’m pretty sure they could get for almost nothing if they wanted it?

      1. The importance of this comment shouldn’t be understated. It perfectly discribes nearly every stadium issue in America, and should be taught in every high school.

      2. By for almost nothing I mean that he wouldn’t have to put up tens of millions for renovations (since by all accounts its in top shape) and they won’t charge him to play there.

          1. The Coyotes play for $500K per year, why wouldn’t they give the Suns the same deal, Especially if it results in Talking Stick Resort Arena getting knocked down. That way you eliminate your biggest competitor

  2. Boots on the ground here in Phoenix, it’s pretty amazing to see all of the organizations fall in line behind the Suns to try to spin this woefully unpopular arena subsidy package. The main downtown Phoenix booster organizations (both of which receive significant investment by both the Suns and Western Alliance Bank, where a Mr Robert Sarver is their owner/chairman) are trying to get everyone to support this deal.

    The thought here seems to be that if the Suns move elsewhere, downtown Phoenix is just going to be dead and that’s that. Um, so what about the three university campuses, light rail, new companies moving operations to downtown, and the arts? Is their continued placement predicated on the Suns?

    1. Presumably downtown Phoenix survives okay on the 325 nights a year when the Suns aren’t playing.

  3. The key word in the presentation is “inevitable.” There is no chance, none, zero, that this giveaway will be turned down by Council. It’s a done deal and always has been, phony dog-and-pony shows notwithstanding. The “inevitable” result of the bullshit meetings will be “Our constituents now favor this giveaway.” And it doesn’t matter how they come up with that conclusion either.

    If the deal wasn’t “inevitable” then maybe they could wait for the new mayor to take office. Zero chance of that, because it might derail the giveaway.

    This one has it all: greed, stupidity, dishonesty and profligacy wrapped into one foul, stinking package.

    1. But then why go through the dog and pony show? I mean, not disputing your analysis necessarily, but why didn’t the council just say “sorry, inevitable” last month? Are they hoping this pretense will keep them from getting shot in the butts?

    2. I think the reason they go through this “process” is to give the illusion of public consultation. As noted in your article, some (likely hardcore Suns fans or business owners who legitimately stand to benefit from a new downtown arena enough to warrant the increased taxes associated) attendees will be in favour of it… so they host a half dozen meetings, take submissions and presentations from a handful of people they know will be in favour of the Sarver Welfare Payment, then say the response was overwhelmingly positive.

      Which I guess it was, if you discount the fact that anyone who wasn’t in favour of the proposal either wasn’t allowed to speak or have their opinion/vote registered.

      No municipality can be effectively governed exclusively by plebiscite. However, when the matter under discussion is a want rather than a need (IE: road maintenance, police, fire, schools, emerg services), there is no practical reason not to have these decisions made through binding plebiscite.

      If the residents of Phoenix don’t want NBA basketball, they should be given an opportunity to say so… not held hostage to the whim of a handful of fans or elected officials who do want NBA basketball but would like others to pay for it.

  4. Christine Mackay, director of Community and Economic Development…

    I have worked exactly with this type of staff-person in many many towns, and there is absolutely no one in government that loves spending other people’s money on fairy tales and promises than the director of Economic Development (or whatever). They lie to themselves that the money they spend is all made back and more, so they have zero compunction or restraint like you find from someone who works in say traffic engineering, or disaster preparedness or whatever.

    The more they spend the more the community will make!

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