The Curse

Here's why the Cardinals have sucked forever, and why they might never suck again

Mumblings about the curse continued.


While the Bidwills have been obsessed with holding on to a freebie championship, they've been just as obsessed with getting a freebie stadium.

State Attorney General Terry Goddard was mayor of Phoenix during the tortured stadium negotiations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
State Attorney General Terry Goddard was mayor of Phoenix during the tortured stadium negotiations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The $455 million University of Phoenix Stadium.
Jackie Mercandetti
The $455 million University of Phoenix Stadium.

But while the Bidwills will not give the 1925 championship to the deserving people of Pottsville, the people of Arizona did give a stadium to the less-than-deserving Bidwills.

By doing so, it could be argued that the people of Arizona have circumvented the Bidwills and gone straight to the football gods with a temple so impressive that the gods have been appeased.

In other words, we paid off the Bidwills' debt.

Don't be fooled by Cardinal claims that they've paid one-third of the price of the new stadium. It's smoke and mirrors.

In November 2000, still glowing from the Cardinals' playoff run, Maricopa County voters passed Proposition 302, which created the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority, which would be tasked with distributing public funds raised by a 3.25 percent increase in rental-car surcharges and a 1 percent hotel tax to be levied for the next 30 years.

Building a new football stadium was the main task. But what got voters most excited was the millions of dollars the Authority would spend improving and building Cactus League baseball facilities and improving youth and amateur sports facilities around the Valley.

From a booster's standpoint, the proposition was crafted brilliantly to give the most possible return to the most possible voters.

Still, the big winners were the Bidwills.

When final construction costs were in, the domed super-structure cost $455 million.

Boiled down over time: Taxes will pay for $298.5 million. Glendale, where the stadium is located, will put in $9.5 million. The Cardinals will put in $147 million.

The Bidwills paid $147 million?

Not really. Because they held the naming rights to the new stadium. And in late September, they sold those rights for $154.5 million over 20 years to the University of Phoenix. It was the third most lucrative naming deal in NFL history.

In effect, having a new stadium built with the words "University of Phoenix" on it actually earned the Cardinals $7.5 million.

The Bidwills got their freebie, with interest.

And the football gods may have been paid off.

That's if you can imagine the football gods as dollar signs, which isn't as goofy as it sounds.

When you look at the sordid history of the Cardinals since coming to Arizona, much of it can be traced back to the stadium issue.

When Eller, Gallagher and Turley were deep in negotiations with Bill Bidwill and his attorney in late 1987, the Phoenix boosters told Bidwill they would do everything they could to get a new stadium built in Phoenix.

The deal, in writing, boiled down to this:

The Phoenix business group, the Metropolitan Phoenix Sports Alliance, pledged to pay for 60 luxury skyboxes that would be completed in Sun Devil Stadium in 1989.

The skyboxes were critical to generating the millions the Bidwills believed they needed to make the deal more lucrative.

The Bidwills also then raised ticket prices to an average of $38, the highest in the league, assuming Arizonans would pay anything for pro football. Fans revolted. The rest is ugly history.

As part of the original deal, after three years, the Bidwills would have the option to move to another facility in the Valley if one was built. The timeline quickly shifted to a more realistic five years.

At the time, a domed stadium was in the planning stages in downtown Phoenix.

Here's the rub:

Bill Bidwill apparently got it in his head that he had been promised a new stadium by the Phoenix business community.

However, a New Times review of all the contracts relating to the Cardinals' move to Arizona and hundreds of pages of correspondence on the deal shows that Valley representatives never once promised a new stadium.

All the Phoenix boosters guaranteed was their "best efforts" to get a domed stadium built in downtown Phoenix.

And, in fact, they gave their best efforts and came up with viable stadium deals.

One problem, Eller says: "We needed a 40-year lease from the Cardinals to pay the thing off, and the Bidwills wouldn't go for it."

That's the same lease length the Phoenix Suns owners agreed to for America West Arena (now U.S. Airways Center).

The other problem, says Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who was mayor of Phoenix during stadium negotiations, was that Bill Bidwill would not commit to his fair share in the costs of a new stadium.

Soon after the Cardinals moved to the Valley, Phoenix leaders began putting together plans for a Cardinals move to a domed stadium. The city had $100 million earmarked for stadium construction. But at the time, Phoenix boosters and taxpayers were expecting that money would go for a home for both pro football and major league baseball.

The first plan, floated by Martin Stone, owner of the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds baseball team, was for a $160 million domed stadium that could house both a new major league team and the Cardinals.

The city promised about $82 million, as long as Stone could get a commitment from Bill Bidwill to move his team downtown.

Bidwill, however, balked at the lease agreement he would have to sign, basically committing to just stay in town for 40 years.

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William Cress
William Cress

I am the great-nephew of Charles Francis Berry, the Pottstown Maroon's kicker who kicked the winning field goal.He taught me how to throw a baseball and foot ball. I played a little high school football in Latrobe my senior year, though the other quarterback in town wearing number 12, Terry Bradshaw is somewhat better known...

I still greatly enjoy the Pottstown curse on Phoenix, especially as I live in Pittsburgh and my brother in law lives in Phoenix. Also, my boss went to Notre Dame.

And I'm sure the black cat we saw sitting on great-grandmother Berry's grave when we visited is purely cooincidence.

 
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