PHOENIX — A Southern Arizona lawmaker wants taxpayers from his area — and the rest of the state — to help Glendale pay its costs of hosting next year’s Super Bowl.
Gov. Jan Brewer, a Glendale resident, said she’s willing to consider it, though she’s not yet sold on the idea.
The proposal by House Minority Leader David Gowan would set up a fund of up to $4 million the city could tap, mainly for overtime for police officers. The Sierra Vista Republican said the event will benefit the entire state, with those who come to Glendale next February also spending time and money everywhere from Tombstone to the Grand Canyon.
The measure is not limited to the Super Bowl. Any community that lands some special event would also be eligible for reimbursement, such as if Phoenix gets the 2016 Republican National Convention or Glendale hosts the NCAA Final Four between 2017 and 2020.
But it would not cover events that come to Arizona anyway, like the Fiesta Bowl or the Phoenix Open.
The plan is getting a mixed reaction from lawmakers who question whether there are sufficient benefits to the entire state to justify having the costs borne by all taxpayers. Even the governor, who said she believes such events are good for the state, is reserving judgment.
“I think we need to see some more information to make a decision as to exactly how much of this we can do,” she said.
But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, already has made up his mind. He said cities and towns bid on these events under the premise it will generate tax dollars. “And then they turn around and say, ‘We can’t afford it’? “That’s absurd,” he said.
Senate President Andy Biggs said he might consider it. But he, too, expressed frustration with Glendale landing the bid and now having its hand out.
“Glendale didn’t see this coming?” Biggs asked. “They didn’t prepare for this? They didn’t know?”
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers acknowledged it’s not like any of this is a surprise. In fact, the city bid on the event even after a study showed it lost money hosting the 2008 game.
Weiers said he was not mayor when the bid for the 2015 game was submitted and he is doing the best he can to help his city, which he thinks may not have gotten a particularly good deal.
He pointed out the fan-oriented NFL Experience will be in Phoenix. That event becomes a large temporary theme park that attracts thousands to its celebrity appearances, games and displays.
Weiers said many of the glitzy parties, and the revenues they generate, will end up elsewhere. Worse, Weiers said, fans are unlikely to stay in town because “Glendale has the least to offer as far as hotels and places to spend their money.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said any cost sharing should be limited to Maricopa County cities that are likely to reap any direct or indirect benefits.
“I don’t see a whole lot of people coming in for something in Glendale and then spending a lot of money in Tucson,” he said.
Gowan said that reflects parochial thinking. “It’s going to benefit the state,” he said. “The state needs to make sure we’re able to protect any citizens that come here.”
Gowan believes those who fly in for the Super Bowl will be spreading the wealth. “You’re not just here for a day,” he said. “You’re here for two, maybe three weeks.”
But Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, said that’s based on a premise the event has economic benefits to the Glendale area or the state.
“Subsequent economic studies of things such as the Olympics have not come out in the black,” said Kwasman, adding these events generate “a lot of good feelings” but little else concrete.
House Speaker Andy Tobin said there may be some merit to the concept. But he wants to be shown there really is a benefit not only to those in the immediate community but to his Northern Arizona constituents.
Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, added, “I would have to have it clearly demonstrated to me that the state, collectively, is benefiting.”
The request by Weiers for state aid actually reflects a 180-degree change in philosophy for him. In 2007, when he was a state representative, he voted against a similar request for aid for Glendale’s previous Super Bowl.