A number of people have asked me (as a former councilmember) to weigh in, pro or con, regarding the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment bid. It may very well become a moot issue if RSE rejects the city’s latest proposal to have the same 5 year opt-out clause as RSE enjoys. Until now I have instead spent all of my time since the original bid was made public reviewing and analyzing it. Note that a revised version has since been made public. In the newest public version changes that had been discussed at the city council workshop of June 28, 2013 are incorporated. There is now a joint defense clause, removal of all “novation” provisions and the city receives all insurance proceeds in the Casualty and Condemnation provisions. These changes and others make it a better deal for the city. Council gave direction to continue negotiations up until the eleventh hour (Tuesday, July 2nd council meeting at 7 pm). We can hope that RSE and the city will continue in the spirit of cooperation.
As for the deal itself let me share my analysis. Let’s look at the numbers. The first premise is that RSE MUST have $15M a year guaranteed by the city. Why? An assumption, that has never been refuted, is that RSE needs $15M a year guaranteed by the city to satisfy the lender’s (Fortress Investment) requirements. The city has an approved budget that allocates $6M a year thereby creating a $9M a year shortfall for the city. RSE has proposed to sweeten the pot and supplant that $9M a year by creating “enhanced revenue streams.” Some are revenue streams whose numbers can be accepted with some sense of surety. The hockey ticket surcharge is based on 41 games with an average attendance of 12, 630. Those are reasonable numbers based on past performance. You may think the average attendance figure is low but it is RSE’s number and to be applauded because of their conservative approach. The “enhanced revenue” produced from this calculation is $1,553,490. It is a number we can accept as valid.
The next number is the team rental of $500,000 a year. That is, of course, a reliable number. One obvious question is why does this number not increase over time? In previous deals the team rental charge escalated over time. Another fairly reliable number is the sales tax generated at hockey games. RSE pegs it at a little over $600,000 a year; the city uses a little over $400,000 a year. I am inclined to accept the RSE number for the sake of argument.
So far, so good. We know the city can rely on these “enhanced revenue streams” of Hockey ticket surcharge, team rental payment and sales taxes generated from hockey games. Those items total $2,690,420 and we can be confident in realizing that revenue.
But a look at the rest of the estimated revenue numbers show they appear to be overinflated. Let’s take the easiest one first, Naming Rights for which the city will receive 20%. Typically this fee is paid in installments. For argument’s sake let’s peg the Naming Rights fee at $10M. Generally, this would be paid over a period of years and often it is a 10 year period. That payment would be approximately $1M a year and the city’s portion would be $200,000 a year for 10 years. So instead of the RSE Naming Rights figure of $671,600 a year, a more conservative and reasonable number is $200,000 a year. As a point of comparison, this is similar to the Naming Rights deal at Chase Field and it receives a payment of $1.1M a year.
The parking revenue figure is highly inflated. The presumption is that all 5,500 parking spaces will generate $10.00 a space at every hockey game. Did you know that there are an additional 9,500 parking spaces at Westgate not subject to this surcharge? Hockey fans can park at Tanger, behind the AMC Theater, etc. and it is a short walk to the arena. Sooner or later, the owners of these businesses will become very unhappy to see hockey fans occupying their customer parking and will begin to charge…$5 a car which will be reimbursed to their patrons. I have also been informed that should there be a new parking fee imposed by the city and the team the Cardinals will charge $5 a car for their 6,000 spaces on Maryland Avenue, across the street from Jobing.com arena. There is also a secondary, but an equally important issue, the number of hockey fans parking in the Desert Mirage neighborhood across the street from Jobing.com arena will most surely increase. It is a neighborhood of over 1,200 homes and some hockey fans (although a minimal number) already park in their neighborhood on hockey game days. The RSE number also includes parking for non-hockey events with 23 events a year and 15,000 attending each of those 23 events. In my estimation it is unrealistic. More about that when we review the $5 per ticket surcharge for non-hockey events. RSE, and the city accepts, a figure of over $2M for parking revenues. This is way too optimistic and a more conservative and realistic figure is half that, or about $1M for parking revenues.
The last number RSE offered was revenue generated per year of $1,725,000 for a non-hockey ticket surcharge of $5.00 per ticket for 23 events a year and attendance of 15,000 at each event. I dug out old material I had related to arena event and attendance figures and I also reached out to people knowledgeable in the concert venue business. From 2003 (the year the arena opened) until today the maximum number of events ever held at the arena in one year that generated an attendance of 15,000 or more has been 15 events. Did you know that throughout the entire Phoenix Metro area there are typically 25 major concerts (what is called in the business, Type “A,” such as a Justin Bieber) a year? 4 of them were held in Jobing.com Arena this year. RSE’s estimate of 23 such concerts drawing 15,000 or better is wishful thinking. A more realistic revenue number for the non-hockey ticket surcharge would be under $1M a year. For the sake of argument, we will use $1M a year. How do these numbers add up? $200,000 a year for Naming Rights; $1M a year for Parking Revenue; and $1M a year for the ticket surcharge for non-hockey events totaling $2,200,000.
Let’s add our reliable, take-it-to-the bank number of $2,690,420 and our far more conservative number of $2,200,000. The total is $4,890,420 and the magic number in “enhanced revenue streams” that must be achieved to make the city whole is $9M. Oh wait, there’s still the Supplemental Ticket surcharge of $1.50 on every ticket. RSE’s number is $1,294,245. It is an overestimate because it is based on that same pesky non-hockey event estimate of 23 events with 15,000 or greater attendees. A more realistic estimate would be no more than $1M a year. So add another million dollars to our $4,890,420 and our final total of “enhanced revenue streams” is $5,890,420 – not the $6.7M used by the city or the $7.3 used by RSE. Yet we need $9M a year. We are short $3,109,580. How can that shortage of a little over $3M a year be covered by the city? Where will the money come from? In my next blog we’ll look at the city’s budget and its overall financial health.