By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"What happened to the critics of the arena?" Republic editorial-page editor Paul Schatt wrote in a November 21 column. "They have changed their tune to something else, because their dire predictions on this project were so far off the mark."
PNI spokesman Bill Shover insists the papers' coverage of the stadium proposal hasn't been dictated by their land-ownership question.
"We happen to think major-league baseball is the last piece in the great growth of downtown," Shover tells New Times. "And we said that editorially many times before we even knew where Jerry was looking."
Still, the state's largest daily has alal but ignored developer John Long's offer of free land for the stadium. Long's announcement ran on the front page of the Phoenix Gazette and led several local television broadcasts, but has been afforded only one paragraph deep in a Republic story last Sunday.
Shover says the PNI board met last Friday and the issue was not on the agenda. But it will be, he adds.
"We'd have an interest, obviously, in being part of a civic unit to make the stadium a reality," Shover says.
Does that mean, he is asked, that his fat-and-happy company might be willing to donate the prime property?
"Noooo, I don't think so," he quickly responds. "There would be an appraisal price on the property and it would be sold. . . . It's been said around here that we're standing right at home plate."
If the R&G has fallen into a potentially lucrative land deal, so in a different way have Valley brothers Robin and Larry Yount. Robin is a future Hall of Famer nearing the end of a distinguished career with the Milwaukee Brewers; Larry is a real estate investor who is president of the Phoenix Firebirds.
Larry Yount is candid about the rocky financial road he and his younger brother have been on for some years. Failed real estate investments during the speculation-crazed 80s, Larry Yount says, "has made it a roller-coaster ride for the last five years or so. Don't speak to me about the rich get richer. Anyway, we're so far from a done deal on this that it's ridiculous."
By "this," Larry Yount means a prime piece of property--almost an entire block--he and Robin bought as Y&Y Partners in 1983. The block is bordered by Jefferson to the north, Jackson to the south, Fifth Street to the east and Fourth Street to the west. It is directly across the street from the R&G warehouse.
The brothers held onto the property even during their hardest times.
Says Larry Yount: "I'd like to say that ten years ago, I knew Jerry Colangelo was going to buy the Suns, that the arena was going to be next door, that a ballpark was going there, and that I'm the smartest guy who ever walked. But that's not true."
Larry Yount says he and his brother bought the property "because the area around downtown convention centers always grows, and I thought Phoenix would be no different."
Three appraisers and two attorneys contacted by New Times say property in that area would have sold for about $20 to $22 per square foot in 1983. And there's no guarantee, Larry Yount agrees, that the property he and his brother own may sell for much more than that during a condemnation.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see a low return on some of the investments down there," Yount says, "but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to get me a fair price--if this happens. The land values have got to be on the upside since what happened next door [the arena]. As far as I'm concerned, I'm sitting just fine, and I've got no great desire to sell. But I'm not gonna be the guy who holds up the deal."
@body:Contrast the R&G's empty warehouse and the run-down structures on the Younts' speculative block with three Jackson Street buildings also in the proposed path of stadium development. These buildings have some history. They also house thriving businesses.
Norman King bought his warehouse seven years ago to house his flourishing produce operation. The huge structure stands at 425 East Jackson, two blocks east of America West Arena. King moves tons of fruit and vegetables through this building every day. Battery-powered fork lifts whiz down the aisles of onions, which are stacked in net sacks stored three pallet-loads high. Truckloads of potatoes are loaded into the basement to be computer-sorted and boxed. Phoenix's first all-concrete structure, King's Onion House is built like a bomb shelter, and has in the distant past functioned as one: When King moved in, the basement walls were papered with civil-defense instructions. Erected in 1915, the building is known to historic-preservation authorities as the Lightning Delivery Company Building, after an early tenant.
"Right now the best use for this building is packing and distributing produce," Norman King says. "But if they decide the stadium is gonna go, I don't think I'll be able to stop them."
King's Onion House occupies one of several buildings along Jackson Street that house produce companies. This small warehouse district grew here because of its proximity to the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. Though most of the other produce operations now receive and ship their products by truck, King's Onion House still gets its deliveries via the nearby rail. Just east of the Onion House, on 601 East Jackson, is the Stern Produce building. Built in 1924 by the Arizona Citrus Growers' Association, it is the only building on the stadium footprint with much historical significance to preservationists. In fact, it's listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.