Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Tohono O’odham were discussed at the Glendale City Council workshop of March 5. 2013. arena Arena

Up first, the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would like to use, the city owned arena, for 4 weekends (or events) in July, 2014. Apparently the city is considering sponsoring this group’s series of meetings as a means of increasing bookings at nearby hotels and ginning up restaurant revenues in Westgate during the doldrum days of summer. It’s a good idea on the face of it. Now, I certainly have no problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses using the city owned facility. Anyone and everyone are welcome to its use if they can afford to do so. Apparently this group cannot.

Let’s look back at the previous experience of hosting this group and take a moment to separate fact from fiction. The group did not pay all of the previous costs associated with use of the arena. It is my understanding that they paid only $5,000 in rental. That is the reason why this time the arena management contractor is requiring a rental fee of $30,000 to cover its costs of staffing, equipment usage and cleanup. It was also reported during previous city council discussions regarding this issue that usage of the restaurants by this group was minimal at best; the participants preferred to “brown bag” it for meals. I also doubt the claims of usage of the Westgate Renaissance Hotel, a 4 diamond hotel. Again, it was pointed out in previous council discussions that the participants used less expensive accommodations in the surrounding Metro Phoenix area.

So, what’s going on? Could it be a form of payback? The former mayor apparently wanted this group to use the arena as aquestion mark means of demonstrating that the arena could survive without the Coyotes. She may have assumed that hosting this group at the arena would generate oodles of sales tax revenue for the city, proving her assertion that the city does not need the Coyotes as an anchor tenant. She publicly endorsed the current mayor’s candidacy. Would he do a favor for the person responsible for his success in his election? I don’t know. You will have to judge for yourselves.

Let’s take another look at what constitutes an event, shall we? The city wants the arena manager to accept a weekends’ worth of days as a single event. The city’s interpretation of an event as being comprised of multiple days would allow the group to use the arena for four consecutive weekends.

event 1The Arena Lease Management Agreement signed in November, 2001, clearly is a contract that the city has relied upon to support its point of view on numerous occasions. Under Section 5.16 of the agreement it spells out that, “the City shall have the non-assignable right to use the Arena Facility (other than Exclusive Team Spaces) for not to exceed four (4) Events (each a “City Sponsored Event”) each Fiscal Year (i) which is sponsored or co-sponsored by the City; (ii) which may feature performers or performances which are normally booked in arenas comparable to the Arena Facility; and (iii) for which admission may be charged, all as determined by the City in its sole discretion (page 45).”

First question for discussion is what is an “Event” and is it defined? Well, yes it is. Under Article I. Definitions and Interpretations, page 10, “ ’Event’ means any revenue or non-revenue producing sports, entertainment, cultural or civic event or other activity (including related event set-up and take-down) which is either (i) presented or held in the bowl (main seating) portion of the Arena Facility, or (ii) presented or held in any other portion of the Arena Facility in a manner that precludes the use of the bowl (main seating) portion of the Arena Facility for other events or activities. If such an event or activity is presented in its entirety more than once during a given day, all such presentations during such day shall be deemed one Event. If such event or activity is presented in its entirety on more than one (1) consecutive day, each day on which such event or activity is presented shall be deemed a separate Event  (Italics and bold mine). For purposes of this paragraph, any event or activity that commences on a given day and is completed within the four (4) hours immediately following the end of such day shall be deemed to have been presented in its entirety on the day such event or activity commenced.”

It seems that the intent of this provision when it was written and accepted by all parties is pretty clear. The city can host 4 events a year. If an event consumes multiple days, each day is considered to be one of the 4 allowable days per year. It will be interesting to see how the city wiggles and tries to broaden this contract’s definition of an event.

The other issue associated with the city’s hosting of this group deals with the costs of the event. Also under Section 5. convention 316, it states the following, “The Arena Manager shall maintain separate records of all Community Event Expenses, and all amounts received for deposit and deposited into the City Parking Fee Account and the Arena Recovery Fee Account with respect to each Community Event. The Arena Manager shall, at the time the monthly financial report for the month during which such Community Event occurs is submitted to the parties hereto pursuant to Section 5.3.3(b)(i), submit an invoice to the City for reimbursement for the amount of such Community Event expenses. The City shall reimburse the Arena Manager for the amount set forth in such invoice within thirty (30) days after the date of such invoice (page 46).”

If the city can get past the vexing issue of what constitutes an event–one day or multiple days– it still must deal with the cost of hosting the event. During workshop council was told that the group can pay only $5,000 per event and they could not afford the $30,000 rental fee that would normally be paid. But the cost to use the arena still remains $30,000 per event. That means that the city would be billed for the difference and would have to pay that difference of $25,000 per event. For 4 events that totals $100,000 to the city as the cost of subsidizing four events. This can only work if the events bring in excess of $100,000 in sales tax from Westgate. I don’t believe that’s possible unless the group, quid pro quo, agrees to book all nights at Westgate hotels and to eat at only Westgate restaurants. That is not likely.

The city continues to experience financial difficulties and Councilmember Alvarez and others have called for more money to be expended on pools and libraries. Every city expenditure remains on the table for possible future cuts and has to be weighed as to its priority. So, Councilmember Alvarez, is your priority to spend up to $100,000 to subsidize this groups’ event?

As for the casino and the Tohono O’odham, another feisty topic of that council meeting, it will have to wait for Part II.