By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
And when Bank One Ballpark opened its roof in downtown Phoenix, people did come -- more than 3.6 million fans in 1998 and 3 million last year.
Garrard, a banker and economist, saw a huge initial impact at his downtown location three blocks from the ballpark.
"We saw a 100 percent increase on event days," Garrard says. "It was two hours before and after the game."
But William Garrard's quickie is over. The economic ripple effect of the ballpark was far less than expected -- insufficient to sustain Coyote Springs, a brew pub and restaurant. The downtown location closed its doors last fall.
"It's easy to exaggerate how much business is going to be down there," Garrard says. "It's feast or famine downtown."
Don Allison, an investor in Coyote Springs' downtown location, says many things contributed to the restaurant's failure, and one was its location downtown.
"Everybody is pulling for the same dollars," Allison says.
Other downtown merchants agree that rosy economic projections promised with the construction of BOB have not materialized. The impact on downtown business appears to be limited to a handful of bars on Jackson Street that host large crowds before and after games.
One of those bars is Alice Cooper'stown. Brian Weymouth, managing partner, says BOB was the catalyst for the opening of the sports/rock 'n' roll-themed bar, which is across Jackson Street from America West Arena. "BOB combined with America West has a real big impact on business," Weymouth says.
The mixed experiences of downtown business owners are reflected in statistics that indicate that after an initial spike in economic activity, downtown's economic growth has leveled off just two years after completion of the $355 million ballpark -- $238 million of which was contributed by Maricopa County taxpayers.
The BOB-anchored downtown is not the economic engine it's been touted to be. Sales downtown are not even keeping pace with sales in the rest of Phoenix.
Today, only four more business licenses exist in the downtown area -- bounded by Third Avenue and Seventh Street, and Fillmore and Jackson streets -- than immediately prior to BOB's opening. And several of those new businesses are located on the ballpark property, including two restaurant/bar facilities.
In fact, BOB has captured more than 90 percent of the increased downtown restaurant and bar sales since the 49,500-seat stadium opened in March 1998.
Anecdotal evidence and sales tax data support conclusions of economists who say that sports-facility subsidies are not good civic investments. The data show that BOB has had a minuscule effect on the overall city and regional economy. Claims that publicly financed stadiums fuel economic revivals have worn thin.
"These things can only be viewed as a redistribution program," says University of South Florida economist Phil Porter, who specializes in professional sports economics. "This takes the money from people who don't care about professional sports and gives it to the people who do."
This is bad news for the Arizona Cardinals, who are seeking about $530 million in taxes over 30 years to help build and operate a new football stadium.
For Cardinals stadium proponents, however, the silver lining to this cloud is that a financing plan being pushed at the Legislature would take little of that tax money from the pockets of Arizonans.
Taxpayers already are dubious of claims that stadium projects generate a windfall for the local economy. In May, Mesa voters handily rejected a proposal by the Cardinals to build Rio Salado Crossing, a $1.8 billion stadium/convention center/hotel complex financed by a gaggle of sales taxes. The project was billed as an economic juggernaut for the East Valley.
Although Cardinals ownership denies it, many observers believe the Cardinals will leave Arizona if a new stadium isn't built. There are claims that a new stadium also is needed to keep the Fiesta Bowl intact. Stadium proponents cite the possibility of luring Super Bowls.
Weeks after the May election defeat, the Cardinals asked Governor Jane Dee Hull to spearhead a task force to develop a public financing plan to underwrite construction, operation and financing of a $342 million football stadium.
Hull assigned the project to her deputy chief of staff, Ted Ferris.
The former head of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Ferris understands the complexities of state financing as well as anybody in Arizona. He knew there was widespread taxpayer resentment lingering from the quarter-cent sales tax -- imposed without voter approval -- to raise $238 million for BOB. There would be no general sales tax increase to build a stadium for the Cardinals.
The plan requires the Cardinals to contribute $75 million -- slightly below the average kicked in by National Football League teams in recent years on stadium deals, but $25 million more than the team had on the table in Mesa. That sum, incidentally, is also the Cardinals' annual shareof the NFL's television contract.
Beyond that, Ferris and the task force have sculpted a plan that shifts the tax burden to tourists -- while handing out goodies for tourism promotion and Cactus League spring training sites.
While the plan would keep the tax burden low on locals, it would place an additional burden on Maricopa County's stagnant tourism industry, via a 1 percent sales tax hike on hotels and a 3 percent surcharge on car rentals.
To offset the expected negative impact on tourism, the financing tax plan would generate at least $300 million over 30 years to promote Arizona tourism. In addition, about $180 million would be earmarked to upgrade Cactus League facilities for Major League Baseball. In fact, 60 percent of the projected $1.3 billion raised over 30 years would go to promote tourism and spring training -- with the balance earmarked for construction, financing and operation of the stadium, which would have a retractable roof and grass playing field that slides in and out like a cookie sheet. Ferris says Arizona residents would contribute less than $1 million a year, under the plan presented to the Legislature.
If Ferris' tax scheme holds water, Arizona could build a new football stadium, quadruple the state's tourism promotion budget, underwrite spring training for 30 years, host a Super Bowl every five years and keep the Fiesta Bowl as a top-tier game -- all at a cost to Maricopa County residents of less than one-tenth of the $238 million Bank One Ballpark tax.
"You have to ask yourself, does $900,000 per year pay for itself when we are helping to secure and maintain events which collectively kick in over a half a billion [dollars] a year?" Ferris says. "I think the answer is a clear yes."
Ultimately, Maricopa County voters will have to agree.
Promises of an economic bonanza erupting in the shadow of Bank One Ballpark in downtown have not materialized, outside of the handful of bars and restaurants at the ballpark and to the west along Jackson Street.
The dearth of economic spillover has stunned some business owners.
"We thought it would be crazy, the way they were talking," he says. "It's been a help, but not the way we thought."
Mike Ratner, co-owner of Tom's Tavern at Central Avenue and Washington Street, jokes that he had retirement plans based on the revenue he thought BOB would bring. BOB isn't bringing early retirement to Ratner, and he says it has had a limited effect.
"We thought it was going to generate great revenue, and although it hasn't been a detriment to business, it has been a disappointment," Ratner says.
A few blocks to the east of the ballpark, the impact is all but invisible.
Brenda Ehlers, owner of Century Pub, says the stadium affects her business "not at all."
She says the previous owner sold the place a year and a half ago because the anticipated increased revenue just wasn't there. Ehlers says the pub is probably just too far away from BOB. At 11th Street and Washington, Century Pub is a five-block walk from the ballpark.
"Business is good, with a steady flow of traffic, but the stadium doesn't affect us at all," Ehlers says.
Statistics gathered by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, a publicly funded but privately managed development group, show downtown remains a small player in Phoenix's overall economy, despite massive public investment in cultural, science and sports projects over the past decade.
Annual sales taxes generated in the downtown area were equal to about 1.7 percent of Phoenix's overall tax collections from 1991 through 1997. With the opening of the ballpark, the downtown share of the city's sales tax collections jumped to 2 percent in 1998 and remained at that level last year.
Data indicate that the opening of BOB coincided with a significant increase in overall downtown sales tax collections in 1998, up 41 percent to $3.34 million over the previous year. However, the spike was short-lived. Downtown sales tax collections in 1999 rose only 4.4 percent over 1998, totaling $3.56 million.
The number of business licenses downtown jumped the first year the stadium was open -- from 248 in 1997 to 277 in 1998 -- an increase of about 10 percent. But the number plummeted last year as stadium attendance fell 17 percent during the Diamondbacks' second season -- a campaign in which the team clinched the National League West pennant and won 100 games. Total business licenses at the end of 1999 in the downtown area were 252 -- only four more than the year before the stadium opened.
The ballpark's impact on the regional economy -- at least as far as bar and restaurant sales goes -- is also small. The downtown area accounted for 2.2 percent of Maricopa County bar and restaurant sales before BOB opened. Last year, the downtown area accounted for 2.9 percent of total bar and restaurant sales in Maricopa County.
"When you open a big facility like that, it results mostly in a redistribution of money over a geographical area," Rex says.
Individuals have a limited amount of money to spend on entertainment, Rex explains. If they elect to spend money on baseball games and on food and drinks at businesses near the stadium, they won't spend that money on entertainment elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Rex says there is some positive impact on the local economy from fans who attend games from outside the region and from spending by visiting teams.
The weak linkage between BOB and the surrounding community is not a surprise to sports economists. Study after study conducted since 1970 concludes that public subsidies for stadiums and teams enrich athletes and owners at the expense of taxpayers.
"Across three decades, a small group of scholars has concluded that neither the teams nor the facilities they use are a source of substantial or even meaningful economic development," wrote David Swindell of Wright State University and Mark S. Rosentraub of Indiana University in a comprehensive 1998 study on public funding of stadiums and arenas.
"New facilities do not engender substantial job creation or economic development regardless of whether the frame of reference is a downtown area, a city, a county, or a region.
"In addition, placing facilities in downtown locations to influence overall development patterns seems to have no significant impact. Business location decisions are not made on the basis of the presence of a team. Thus, the economic spillovers resulting from a team's presence are minimal and do not provide the return necessary to justify the public's investment."
BOB's minimal impact on downtown businesses is also a reflection of the design of the stadium, which features two onsite full-service restaurants and bars plus an array of food, beverage and souvenir vendors scattered throughout the stadium.
A 1998 economic report prepared for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership by Valley economist Elliot Pollack noted that "the stadium and its associated restaurants account for approximately 94 percent of the increase in Downtown restaurant sales, with most of the sales captured by the ballpark's concessions stands."
As a result, Pollack noted, nearby businesses suffer.
"Apparently, visitors to the stadium are not traveling far beyond the stadium proper itself, perhaps due to the closeness of parking facilities in the warehouse district."
And this was before the fall, when Phoenix opened the 3,000-space Civic Plaza East parking garage located directly north of the ballpark. The parking garage will further concentrate baseball fans even closer to the stadium, sharply reducing pedestrian traffic that downtown restaurants and bars require to flourish.
Brian Mertz, bar manager of Fat Tuesday in the Arizona Center, says the garage, which was open for a few baseball games at the end of last season, had an immediate impact.
"We've lost a lot of business because of the parking garage right next to BOB," Mertz says. "We're three blocks away, and nobody wants to walk."
While a few bars -- Jackson's on Third, Cooper'stown, the Jefferson Street Grill and the Tee Pee Tap Room -- have flourished, at least on game days, the overall economic impact of the ballpark on the community remains murky.
Brian Kearney, executive director of Downtown Phoenix Partnership, says the value of BOB shouldn't be measured by the economic impact on neighboring businesses alone.
Instead, Kearney argues that the ballpark has helped create a "positive investment environment" downtown that is helping spur additional construction in the area.
Others would argue that BOB has had a negative impact on investment opportunities: The Diamondbacks sold $121 million in tax-free municipal bonds to help cover the team's share of construction of BOB. The bonds were sold through the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority. While the IDA is not liable for repayment of the bonds, the Diamondbacks' sale reduces IDA funds available for other projects. The tax-free bonds also amount to a federal tax subsidy to the Diamondbacks through lower financing costs.
Kearney points to new housing complexes, the construction of the Collier Center office and retail complex just north of BOB, and the recent groundbreaking for Phelps Dodge's new corporate headquarters as examples of businesses drafting in BOB's wake.
"BOB has made people feel that downtown has a future and is going to be a happening place for a long time," Kearney says.
Yet it's not happening enough for some. The city still has not secured the third major downtown hotel it so desires. Would-be hoteliers, such as a Marriott proposed for the Collier Center, demand significant city subsidies. In the case of the Marriott, the city had to offer to pony up more than $90 million in cash and loan guarantees, but that deal is tied up by litigation.
The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is promoting a site east of Seventh Street and south of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks for the proposed Cardinals stadium. Kearney says downtown already has the necessary infrastructure to support construction of the Cardinals stadium and the facility could work in conjunction with the Phoenix Civic Center to host trade shows and conventions.
"We are clearly interested in maximizing the infrastructure that is here," he says.
Maximizing infrastructure isn't enough, say some downtown business owners.
Brian Weymouth, manager of Cooper'stown, says downtown needs to expand its focus beyond sports facilities.
"I don't believe the downtown is mature enough to survive just on BOB, because there is no entertainment district," he says.
Promoters of the Cardinals stadium are eager to minimize comparisons between BOB and the planned football stadium.
"I really don't want to be defending BOB," Ferris says. "I would rather draw a distinction here. The governor said very early on to the task force that we are not going to do anything close to BOB."
Where BOB collected $238 million from taxpayers, Ferris says, Arizona taxpayers would contribute only about $22 million (in today's inflation-adjusted dollars) to a new Cardinals facility.
Because local residents will be chipping in a much smaller share for the Cardinals stadium, the question of whether there is significant economic impact to the community doesn't loom as large, he says.
"With Bank One Ballpark, you're questioning whether or not kicking $238 million over a three-year-plus period has generated a stream of revenue that is a good return on that investment. That's a legitimate question.
"I would rather not compare the two," he says. "Ours was specifically designed not to be that model, to be a more creative model that leverages dollars for the benefit of Arizona. We think we have done that."
The gubernatorial task force not only has distanced itself from BOB, but from the Cardinals, who have become a mere footnote in the overall tax plan. During a January 31 press conference at the Governor's Office, task force members rarely mentioned the Cardinals. The team's vice president, Michael Bidwill, attended the 90-minute presentation, but declined to comment on the proposal.
The briefing focused on other reasons for tapping public funds, including boosting the state's tourism-promotion budget, upgrading spring training facilities for the Cactus League, keeping the Fiesta Bowl as a major college football game and landing a Super Bowl every five years.
And the only way to achieve these goals, reporters were told, is to build the Cardinals a new football stadium.
Why is the task force suddenly concerned about Arizona tourism and the Cactus League? Politics. The only tax stream palatable to voters must come from out-of-state tourists.
But taxing visitors would hurt Arizona's moribund tourism industry. The only way stadium supporters could get the tourism industry to agree to the taxes was to promise that most of the tax revenue would be spent to promote tourism.
"It's basically compensation, if you will, the quid pro quo to the tourism industry, to the hotel industry in particular," says Mark McDermott, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. "They are going to be asked to incur an additional tax. So what's in it for them? This is the answer."
The hotel and car rental taxes were identified as funding sources during discussions between Ferris, Phoenix development attorney Steve Betts, Cardinals political consultant Jay Smith, and Bank One chairman Michael Welborn, state records show.
Initially, the plan was to impose a 1 percent sales tax hike on hotel rooms in Maricopa County and a 0.5 percent hike on hotel rooms outside the county. The hotel tax was estimated to raise $1.1 billion over 30 years.
However, resistance from legislators in outlying counties and the difficulty in waging a statewide election campaign forced stadium promoters to seek a hotel sales tax increase in Maricopa County alone. The Maricopa County hotel tax is expected to raise about $900 million over 30 years, Ferris says.
The car rental surcharge would also raise significant revenue: $417 million over 30 years.
Lumped with the Cardinals' $75 million investment, the car rental fee would provide a revenue stream nearly sufficient to pay for the stadium without a hotel tax.
Combined, the hotel and car rental tax streams -- totaling $1.3 billion -- would more than cover construction of the $342 million stadium, $130 million in financing charges plus $40 million to subsidize operation of the stadium during the first 10 years.
In addition to the tourism taxes, the stadium plan would tap other tax streams that already exist -- at the expense of the state's general fund.
The plan calls for $36 million in NFL players' state income taxes to be earmarked for the stadium. State sales taxes generated during construction of the stadium and from the sale of merchandise and concessions once the stadium opens would be used to help pay for the stadium -- a total of $29 million. These three tax streams would not exist, and could not be diverted if no NFL team were playing here.
Last year, Forbesmagazine estimated the Cardinals are worth about $301 million, based on $100 million in revenue and net operating income of $10.6 million. The Cardinals were ranked the 28th most valuable team in the 30-team league. The Dallas Cowboys were the most valuable team at $663 million based on $161 million in revenue and $56.7 million in net operating income.
The tax plan also calls for the Fiesta Bowl to contribute $20 million to the construction of the stadium. However, Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker says the bowl has not yet determined how much money it will contribute, although he guarantees the Fiesta Bowl would make a significant contribution.
"It would be much too soon to commit to a number until I know all the details of a stadium-use agreement," Junker says.
Whatever plan emerges from the Legislature, Senate President Brenda Burns says it will be up to Maricopa County voters to decide whether to impose a tax to help finance the stadium.
Insiders tell New Timesthat the hotel tax may disappear from the equation altogether, leaving the car rental tax and the supplemental revenue streams to finance the stadium.
With the Cardinals keeping a low profile, football stadium supporters say $1.3 billion in new taxes must be raised to save Arizona's tourism industry, protect the Cactus League, keep the Fiesta Bowl a top-tier bowl game and bring the Super Bowl back.
While the arguments have merits, the impacts are years down the road, and of questionable economic magnitude. Of the four, the impact on tourism appears to be the most immediate.
Arizona's tourism industry is growing, but at a slow, choppy rate. Tourism spending, including business travel, hit $10.9 billion in Arizona in 1998, up 6 percent over 1997.
However, there are indications that business travel, the most lucrative segment of tourism, is slowing. Business travelers spent $3.3 billion in Arizona in 1998, up only 10 percent from $3 billion spent in 1994.
Arizona's tourism promotion budget is relatively small compared to other states, ranking 26th in the nation at $8.8 million. Hawaii leads all states with a $60 million budget.
"I think we have really raised the level of awareness of the fact that we are challenged to protect our tourism market share by all this increased spending not just in other states but by major communities in the country," says Arizona Office of Tourism director Mark McDermott.
The stadium tax proposal would add $5 million to the state tourism budget the first year, with steady increases thereafter. The tourism promotion budget would get $19.6 million from the tax plan in year 30.
ASU economist Tom Rex says that spending tax money to promote tourism would be more beneficial to the state than putting the money into a new football stadium.
"I would be willing to bet the net benefit to the area would be far greater if you spent the money in ways to support tourism, and not just in advertising but providing support for that industry, than building a football stadium that gets used 10 times a year," he says.
Like tourism promotion, Cactus League funding was not on the table last summer when Governor Hull asked Ferris to spearhead discussions with the Cardinals. During the January press conference, task force members raised the specter of the Cactus League being stolen by Las Vegas unless new taxes were passed.
While some of the 10 teams in the league might be looking for new sites, at least six are locked into long-term contracts from 12 to 20 years. The teams signed lengthy contracts because the public sector already has contributed tens of millions of dollars to upgrade and build new spring training facilities.
Since 1993, the Maricopa County Stadium District has spent $71 million on construction and renovation at five spring training facilities, including: $3.7 million for Tempe Diablo Stadium for the California Angels; $21.5 million for the Peoria Sports Complex for the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners; $6.75 million for Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the Oakland A's; $17 million for HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa for the Chicago Cubs; and $17 million for Maryvale Stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Funding for the stadium district spending spree comes from a $2.50 surcharge on rental car contracts. The district cannot spend any more money on spring training facilities unless it finds an additional revenue source. Supporters of the Cardinals stadium tax say they will earmark up to $180 million over the next 30 years to help build and upgrade Cactus League facilities.
Ferris and others also cite the possibility that Arizona can lure the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers to the Cactus League in a pre-emptive strike against Las Vegas, which is in the preliminary stages of trying to attract at least four teams to the city. The Dodgers and Rangers currently train in Florida.
"One option would be to create one additional two-team complex, and have one of the teams be the Dodgers," Ferris says. "That's the big plum. Vegas is going hard after the Dodgers."
The Rangers and the Dodgers confirm they have held discussions with Las Vegas, but officials with both teams say there are no immediate plans to relocate.
John Blake, a spokesman for the Rangers, says the team has one more year on its contract in Port Charlotte, Florida. "We have made some inquiries in Las Vegas, Arizona and Florida. We could be staying here," he says.
While Las Vegas may be an attractive location, Blake says there are concerns about the windier, cooler weather compared to Arizona or Florida.
Dodgers spokesman Derrick Hall says the team is also weighing all options and has "no timetable" to make a move.
The Dodgers are the only major league team that owns its spring training facility, the luxurious Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. The center includes villas for the players, golf, tennis and swimming facilities as well as a 4,000-seat stadium, four other major league fields, two half fields, outdoor and indoor batting cages, conference rooms, and weight training rooms.
"They got everything you can possibly imagine there," Hall says.
The implication is that if Arizona officials want to lure the Dodgers, they had better spare no expense.
Despite the stadium task force's rhetoric, there doesn't appear to be an immediate threat to Arizona's Cactus League, which attracted 904,000 fans in 1998, more than half from out of state.
"I think we are in pretty good shape," says Dale Sagebiel, Maricopa County stadium district chief financial officer. "The Cactus League we have right now seems to be pretty stable. We will have some concern in a couple of years when some of the leases come up."
Stadium boosters also have raised the possibility that the Fiesta Bowl could be stolen by Houston. The task force concluded that the Fiesta Bowl must leave Sun Devil Stadium or risk becoming relegated to a second-class college bowl game.
But like the Cactus League, the Fiesta Bowl seems in little danger of losing one of the nation's premier college football games.
"We've told anyone who will take the time, who will listen, not to be alarmed about the immediate future," says Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker.
Problems may loom five years down the road, Junker says.
As cities build new stadiums to keep and attract NFL teams, the Fiesta Bowl will also face increased competition from cities seeking to host major college games. Houston has quickly become a major concern for the Fiesta Bowl. The city has already agreed to build a new $375 million football stadium, and there are strong indications that Houston will go after the Cardinals if Arizona refuses to build a new stadium.
The new Houston stadium poses a direct threat to the Fiesta Bowl because of the Fiesta's alliance with the Big XII Conference, Junker says. The Fiesta Bowl is committed to taking the Big XII Conference champion, unless the Fiesta Bowl is hosting the national championship game -- as it did in 1999.
Junker says a new stadium in Houston, which is much closer to many of the Big XII schools, could pose a problem.
"We have a business relationship with the Big XII and when we see those kind of things happening directly in their marketplace, we simply would not be doing our jobs right if we let people think that everything is going to be great and there are no problems down the road," Junker says.
Since the first Fiesta Bowl in 1970, all games have been played at Sun Devil Stadium. While the Fiesta Bowl continues to support Arizona State University, Junker says the Fiesta Bowl committee also believes that a new stadium is necessary.
"Support for a new facility is important to our future," he says.
Super Bowls are another factor cited by supporters of a new stadium. They say the Super Bowl generates a $300 million economic windfall for the state -- at least according to studies commissioned by the state and the Super Bowl XXX Host Committee. A new stadium would put Arizona on the Super Bowl rotation every five years or so, proponents say.
Sports economists, however, are beginning to conduct more detailed analysis of Super Bowls and are determining that their economic impacts are limited.
"Not one of them [local economies] showed any impact from the Super Bowl," Porter says.
The reason, he says, is that tourists come to these warm-weather cities in the winter whether there is a Super Bowl scheduled or not.
"I have never in any Super Bowl found an increase in airport traffic in the affected county, higher sales tax collections or increased hotel occupancy," says Porter. "The only thing I have found is the hotel rates double and triple."
Ted Ferris concedes the Super Bowl impact, as well as the Fiesta Bowl's reported $133 million economic boost, could be overstated. But he's not willing to say that keeping and attracting such events in Arizona is not worth raising taxes -- especially when the bulk of the tax will be levied on visitors.
"To me, the big benefit of the Super Bowl are the intangibles," Ferris says.
The value comes in exposure of the city to business leaders who may decide to locate offices in Arizona. The value, he says, comes from countless mentions in media around the world -- free.
"I have no doubt that it is a huge benefit for the economy," Ferris says. "I just don't think it is concentrated in that one week. The more significant impacts could be in ensuing years as people come to know the state and say, 'You know what? I'm going to come back when I can play golf and do this, that and the other and I'm not tied up with all these Super Bowl events.'"
How important are the Cardinals to Arizona's economy?
The team says it has an economic impact to the community of $150 million a year. How much of this is simply displacement of entertainment dollars from one venue to another is difficult to say. No independent studies of the team's economic impact have been conducted, and the Cardinals refuse to open their books, even to the task force trying to build them a new stadium.
Another measure of the team's contribution to the economy might be based on its total taxable sales, estimated to be about $25 million last year.
While this might seem significant, it is a tiny sliver of Maricopa County's total taxable sales of $44.7 billion last year.
If the team were to leave tomorrow, loss of its taxable sales would barely register a blip.
But there are businesses that benefit from Cardinals games.
Addie Mocca, owner of the Bandersnatch Brew Pub, the closest bar to Sun Devil Stadium, says the Cardinals "would be sorely missed . . . they're great for business, and anybody who says differently is mistaken."
Managers at the Tempe Hooters -- located a few blocks west of Sun Devil Stadium -- say business increases 50 percent on game days.
However, a manager at the House of Tricks, a restaurant and bar located between Bandersnatch and Hooters, reports very little increase from Cardinals games because "it's not the kind of crowd we attract."
More mainstream eateries also appear to be immune from the Cardinals. P.F. Chang's China Bistro at Mill Avenue and University Drive does a good business no matter what, managers say. Cardinals games simply don't matter.
A bit farther west down University Drive, Jack Berry, an owner at Boston's, says he never knows what a Cardinals game will bring.
"It's funny," Berry says. "One time it's phenomenal, another time it really hurts. I think people figure that we're so close to downtown that they can't get in for parking. They get scared away."
Contact Amanda Scioscia at her online address: firstname.lastname@example.org