Pies: Just say no to the Tempe Entertainment District
By Ron Pies
The “Big Lie” happened to Tempe. No, this is not about a presidential or senate election. It’s about a May 16 special election in the proposed Tempe Entertainment District proposed by Las Vegas billionaire Alex Meruelo.
He claims his Arizona Coyote stadium project is “privately” funded but is demanding tax contributions in the form of sales tax revenue, as well as the power to impose new taxes on Tempe businesses, residents and guests, and an unprecedented 30-year-plus-eight-year property tax waiver .
What is disappointing is that some “prominent” Tempe citizens bought this “big lie” and I see it tearing our community apart.
I’ve dedicated my life to serving Tempe’s families, students, children, seniors – everyone in our community. In 99% of my positions—paid, elected, and volunteer—I have a good feeling about the direction we’re going and why we’re going there. This is not the case here.
To see a proposal presented that robs the public coffers that everyone in our community supports is deeply disturbing, and to see the excesses, untruths, and hostility of the developer and private interests that promote these proposals is even more disheartening . We’re better than that.
The Arizona Coyotes, owned by Bluebird Development owner Alex Meruelo, are the same organizations that were kicked out of a Glendale-built hockey arena.
The facility has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions, and they owe millions more. Eventually, Glendale acted after bills went unpaid by the billionaire.
Ever since the team left the arena, Glendale began making money instead of losing revenue. They have also relied on Tucson for payments for Roadrunner’s Arena, home of their farm team.
Nationally respected financial analyst firm Dun and Bradstreet advises that Meruelo and Coyotes’ financial stability is highly questionable. In fact, the independent financial firm ranked both companies as “high risk” of late payment and total default. In other words, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to fulfill their rosy promises to Tempe.
Contrast that with the financial analysis the Coyotes are pushing, which comes from Beacon Sports, a firm designed to encourage stadium financing at all costs.
The project was suspect from the start as it appears that the city’s “tender request” was created by the Meruelo organization itself. Not surprisingly, only Coyotes and Meruelo’s company Bluebird LLC, a company registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission as a “foreign company,” responded to the handwritten offer.
In addition, the attorney representing the Coyotes and the chief negotiator have donated heavily to the Council candidates’ campaigns and also made other promises such as: B. Continued support and use of VIP suites in the proposed arena.
Countless reputable studies in the US have shown that taxpayer subsidies for professional sports rarely, if ever, have a positive financial impact on the cities involved. The impact on the local economy has proven grim.
University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson once observed that if the intent of public stadium funding is economic growth, a more effective method would be to haphazardly drop money from the sky.
The data presented by the citizens’ initiative Tempe 1 have yet to be convincingly refuted. To claim that the project is entirely privately funded is simply not true – it is undeniable that if Tempe accepts this very bad deal, hundreds of millions of dollars in public money would go to a corrupt billionaire casino operator.
Perhaps the overriding question is why would a billionaire need taxpayer subsidies if he expects the project to be lucrative.
Until and unless facts are presented by the out-of-state billionaire to refute the data presented here, and by a voluntary coalition of actual Tempe residents known as the “Tempe1st,” we Tempe citizens must vote on all three ballots NO, NO, NO agree suggestions.
Ron Pies is a longtime resident of Tempe and has previously worked for the city in a variety of capacities. He is the former director of Tempe Community Services and a former board member of Kyrene.