Silk Purse

You can't dress up a new stadium for the Cardinals when the owner wears no clothes

That would do it.

But haggis must never be served à la carte. So a hotel tax that will rake in $804 million over the life of the program was grafted on, as well as more voter-sympathetic beneficiaries -- our ostensibly moribund tourism industry, the Cactus League and, of course, those amateur and youth athletes.

What sophistry.

Imagine the possibilities.
courtesy of Hunt Construction
Imagine the possibilities.

The TSA itself is a dubious creation -- an unelected body with powers of eminent domain.

The TSA has already signed a deal with the Cardinals that will give the team all the revenue from stadium naming rights (they could be worth $100 million; so much for the Cards' "contribution"), all revenue from NFL ticket sales, luxury suites, in-stadium advertising and -- although the host government must build the parking lots -- all net parking revenues from game days. The TSA will be responsible for game-day expenses and perpetual maintenance and operations of the facility.

No wonder some observers believe the franchise's value could soar by $100 million on election day.

The TSA has already hired Hunt Construction to design and build the facility. No competitive bidding. The contractor would be responsible for any cost overruns, which seem a certainty with such projects (Bank One Ballpark ran $130 million over budget; Seattle's Safeco Field, $100 million over. Both have retractable roofs).

If significant overruns develop -- and with a retractable roof and retractable playing field, that seems probable -- can we really expect the contractor to shave his margin?

There's a troubling redundancy to the TSA, which also will be responsible for meting out money to build new spring training facilities and enhance existing ones. The Maricopa County Stadium District already fulfills this duty, and though the Stadium District board (the county Board of Supervisors) voted to plunder taxpayers to build BOB, at least its members are elected. The Stadium District currently relies on car-rental surcharges to finance Cactus League improvements.

When I asked county Stadium District Director Bill Scalzo if the TSA would create a new layer of bureaucracy, he responded, "Those were your words. I don't know how they're [TSA] going to manage it. Obviously, it will mean there's a different holder of the monies."

Finally, there are questions about the efficacy of the state Office of Tourism, which would gain a quarter-billion dollars in new funding over the next three decades. In August, the state's auditor general blasted the agency for myriad misdeeds, including violating state procurement and bidding rules and improperly entering into a joint venture.

Arizona would heave an appreciative sigh if the politicians would quit pimping for pro sports, already, and stick to more practical matters -- like alternative-fuel incentive programs.

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