Operation Mickey Mouse

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Colangelo says he's not out to line his and his partners' pockets at the expense of what is right for Phoenix. He insists that his aim is only to create a prosperous downtown.

"I care about the town, the community, the city, and I don't have a vested interest financially in any development that is going to take place in this downtown," he says. "I just want to see it all happen."

He leaves out that the downtown he envisions would hugely benefit his entertainment interests.

Colangelo needs all the help he can get in attracting more patrons to America West and to the BOB. Despite a recent $28 million face-lift of the arena -- in which an upscale restaurant, a Starbucks and a team shop were added -- attendance is still lagging at Suns games. A two-story nightclub adjacent to the ballpark has also suffered. Controlled by the Diamondbacks and leased to private operators, the bar (currently called McFadden's) has been a financial black hole with two previous operators going under.

Colangelo clearly wants to leave the impression that any master plan for downtown would not be his. He insists that he has merely provided the leadership necessary to get things under way.

"I don't know what's going to happen with this plan," he says. "It's not my plan. It's a plan that people are looking at that seems to make sense. There is going to be all kinds of input, but we need more money to take it to the next step."

Eventually, Colangelo vows, there will be no more secrecy surrounding what he and his colleagues want to do. "There will be input from all kinds of people," he says. "I'm all for that. I'm inclusive. This is not an exclusive thing."

If Colangelo seems defensive, that's because he is. He's clearly growing weary of the burgeoning criticism (spearheaded by the street-level arts community and its supporters) of his activities.

"I've taken a lot of responsibility for a long time. I give of my time and my resources because I care. And quite honestly, I'll continue to do that until I just get tired of being used as a target for whatever reason. I don't need it."

Right now, he says, "I'm prepared to continue to go forward. I'm going to try to see some plan through. I don't care who gets credit for it. I don't care who participates in it."

Colangelo believes that if he doesn't take the lead in developing a practical blueprint for the future of downtown, no one else will.

"One thing I have been able to do rather successfully is bring people together . . . rally the troops to try to get something done. If anything, there's been a void of people who can get anything done."

Among those supporting Colangelo's downtown master-plan project is Ken Kendrick, a major investor in the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns.

A behind-the-scenes investor in the arena, ballpark and Dodge Theatre, Kendrick helped pay Jerde Partnership last spring.

Kendrick says the three entertainment venues controlled by Colangelo are vastly important to downtown, but that they are not enough to trigger the wave of residential investment necessary to spark a successful central city.

Something else is needed, and this is why he thinks hiring Jerde Partnership last spring was an important "tentative first step" toward breathing life into downtown.

"A lot of people see there is a great need for some kind of major league effort at urban redevelopment in the city of Phoenix," Kendrick says. "There is a dearth of housing, a dearth of arts and other kinds of things that make for a vibrant [downtown].

"I'm disappointed about what isn't in downtown," he says.

Like Colangelo, Kendrick has a direct interest in seeing downtown blossom in a way that will benefit him financially.

Along with Mel Shultz, Dale Jensen and Mike Chipman, Kendrick rescued the Arizona Diamondbacks from imminent financial collapse in 2001 with a promise to invest $160 million over 10 years in the team in exchange for a 49 percent stake.

The investment came soon after the Diamondbacks won the World Series but were trounced in the much more treacherous world of Major League Baseball finances.

It is a little-discussed fact that Colangelo, Phoenix's most powerful downtown businessman, was at the helm when the Diamondbacks plunged into more than $300 million in debt and near bankruptcy.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty