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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The Coyotes Press Release issued on Thursday, August 19, 2021, stated, We are hopeful that they (Glendale) will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale.” It appears to be a veiled reference to Westgate’s businesses and seems to infer that they will suffer mightily with the loss of 42 Coyotes games per season.

It’s time to look back at the history of Westgate. It’s only rationale for existence in 2003 was the deliberate development by the city of Glendale’s hockey arena. When it opened in 2003, it was surrounded by a sea of vacant land, some of it was still agricultural. Fans came to the arena for the games and left immediately after the games because there was nothing for them to do or experience.

Steve Ellman failed to develop any of the adjacent commercial/retail for 2 years. It wasn’t until 2006, limited development opened with a few restaurants. Westgate, now in its infancy, began to grow and take shape. The Cardinals Stadium, Cabela’s, the AMC Theater and a few restaurants also opened in that year. Followed a year later, 2007, by the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. This is what the early Westgate looked like.

By 2012 Ellman could not weather the aftereffects of the economic storm and shed himself of Westgate as it went into bankruptcy. One of institutions that had loaned him the money for the project, IStar, took over Westgate.

Back then, the arena and stadium were the anchor tenants that kept the nascent Westgate afloat especially through the national recession that ended in 2009. Even though the recession officially ended in 2009, everyone, including Westgate felt its effects for several more years. IStar, as a major lending institution, held on to this property knowing its future potential. It did a credible job of keeping Westgate intact and growing. Since 2012, iStar had executed over 50 retail and office leases totaling in excess of 260,000 square feet, converted two floors of vacant office space into 76 luxury loft-style residential units, and brought to the district multiple new entertainment options including Dave & Busters and Tavern+Bowl.

Tanger Outlet Mall opened in 2012 and everything changed. iStar partnered with Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. to build the successful 400,000 square foot Tanger Outlets, Westgate. Tanger with its nearly 90 stores became the catalyst for more restaurants landing in Westgate for there are no restaurants within Tanger. Tanger patrons began crossing 95th Avenue to eat at Westgate’s restaurants. More restaurants located in Westgate as a result. Tanger Outlets was the beginning of less reliance on Coyotes games to keep Westgate alive.

In 2018, Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder, bought Westgate for $133 million. Parsons said at the time of purchase, The potential at Westgate is huge. Westgate currently offers visitors a wide variety of entertainment options, but we’re looking to develop features that will entice even more visitors and residents to this unique and vibrant Valley location.”

In the past four years, due to Bob Parsons and his team (YAM Properties), Westgate has become even more vibrant with 38 restaurants, hotels, condos, apartments, and office space. It has become an economic powerhouse in the state and where businesses want to locate. Coming next to Dave & Buster’s will be Tiger Woods’ Pop Golf and Tesla has built a service center on the south side of Glendale Avenue. Some of the long tenured tenants, despite learning that the Coyotes are leaving, remain enthusiastic about investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrading their venues. They know there is more to Westgate than the Coyotes and that more exciting development is coming before the Super Bowl in 2023.

YAM has done an exceptional marketing job for Westgate. Everyone in the Valley knows of Westgate. On any given night you can find some kind of activity in and around Westgate. Westgate is truly a sports and entertainment district.

Just to reemphasize how well Westgate is doing, this week in the Business Journal there was an article about the 7 new businesses coming to Westgate:

  • The Tesla Service Center will offer remote diagnostics, pre-diagnosed repairs and a retail showroom for model vehicles
  • Tacos Culichi, a popular Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, will open another location near Sunrise Boulevard.
  • First Watch is an American restaurant chain that offers a mix of breakfast, brunch and lunch classics. 
  • Bruster’s Ice Cream, another American chain, will open its third Arizona location at the district next to the Aloft Hotel. 
  • Pokitrition, a local shop, serves customizable poke bowls and sushi burritos. 
  • PopStroke Entertainment, which is owned by golf legend Tiger Woods and Greg Bartoli, announced plans to open in the Westgate Entertainment District. 
  • Cupbop, opened at the northeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hanna Lane in the entertainment district,
  • NakedQ BBQ, a barbecue joint, opened its third Valley location at Westgate

As reported in the Business Journal, “Oren Hartman, the owner of the NakedQ BBQ and head pit boss, said he’s looked at moving to the area for years, but decided the timing was right with ‘all the great growth out here’. He went on to say, ‘With the continued growth and population out here, with the commitment from YAM and Westgate to keep building up and making the facility better, and just to be around some world-class tenants, those were all the main reasons that we came over’.”

In a previous statement as part of the city’s Press Release, Dan Dahl said he supports the city’s decision to end negotiations with the Coyotes. The Business Journal received further comment from Mr. Dahl, “Westgate is not solely dependent on sports programming and the announcement doesn’t take away the endless potential we have to offer the area,” he said in an email on Tuesday. “Several of our tenants, including many restaurants, are experiencing increased activity and strong sales numbers every night of the week. Many even exceed pre-Covid numbers despite the events and activities still coming back slowly.” 

Perhaps the most consequential development scheduled to open in the Fall of 2023 is the Crystal Island Lagoon Resort located at 95th Avenue and Cardinals Way in the Westgate footprint. With its 3 hotels, 7 specialty retail islands, a 12-acre lagoon for public use, Mattel Amusement Park and much, much more it is anticipated to attract between 2 and 5 million visitors in its first year.

Westgate has grown up as has the City of Glendale. The city commissioned an economic study of the fiscal impact of Westgate with the Coyotes and without the Coyotes (replacing the team dates with other major events). The Applied Economics report revealed that, “In terms of spending at Westgate only (outside the arena) it would take approximately 20 additional concerts or large other events (with attendance of 10,000+) to equal the same amount of sales tax revenues to the city as 43 Coyotes games.”

Another important element of the Applied Economics study revealed was a comparison of per capita spending for a Coyotes game vs. a concert vs. another event. Per capita, the Coyotes generate $28 per game. A concert per capita is $58 and another event per capita is $35.

Currently, discounting last year which was severely impacted by Covid, the arena already books about 10 – 12 major events a year. With the Coyotes no longer consuming 42+ days (game days and practice days), there is confidence that an additional 20 days of major events can be booked. Keep in mind, the Coyotes actually tie up 200 days a year. Let me take a moment to explain what that means to the arena. In the fall, arena management must submit to the NHL 200 open days during which games can be scheduled there. However, the NHL doesn’t post its league schedule until the following spring at which time the arena finally learns which 42 game days must be preserved. Imagine trying to book other events when 200 days are in limbo for 6 months of the year.

When the Coyotes claim that their departure “would primarily damage the small businesses,” that is no longer an accurate statement. Like Pinocchio, their nose continues to grow longer and longer.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

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Recently the Arizona Republic started a new item, West Valley Sound Off. They are contacting West Valley elected to get their positions on issues of the day. Their first foray question was, “Do you support the development of this proposed casino? Why or why not?” Those from Avondale, Buckeye, Goodyear, El Mirage, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Surprise, Tolleson and Youngtown declined to answer. Not so with our brave, intrepid leaders in Glendale. Three of them did respond.

Councilmember Manny Martinez has consistently opposed the casino since it was first proposed in 2009. He gets it. He said, “I do not support the proposed Tohono O’odham reservation and casino. I am very concerned for Westgate’s well-being if the casino is opened. How do casinos attract customers? Cheap booze, cheap food, and the cost of rooms are minimal. At Westgate, we have hotels and restaurants that pay taxes and help us pay off our debts. If the reservation and casino come in, as a sovereign nation, they would pay no federal, state, county or city taxes. Governor William R. Rhodes of the Gila River Indian Community said, ‘We believe the Tohono O’odham Nation, with the assistance of the federal government, has disrespected the rule of law, the balance so carefully struck among Indian gaming tribes, our community, Glendale and every Arizonan.”

Then we have words, signifying nothing, from Councilmember Chavira. He doesn’t get it and he is not representing the majority sentiment of the residents of West Glendale and the Yucca district, who will feel the direct impacts of the proposed casino. He mimics the same, old, tired rhetoric that the Tohono O’odham have used ad nausea, “Yes, I do support the development of the proposed West Valley casino and resort. The benefits of the development will be significant not only for Glendale, but for the entire West Valley. Positive economic impacts such as job creation and an additional tourist attraction in our sports and entertainment district are among the benefits.” I’m sure he knows, uhmmm, well, perhaps he knows…that 25% of the jobs must be filled with Native Americans.

Lastly, Councilmember Sherwood responded. This is a guy who, less than two years ago, ran on a platform of opposition to the casino. Now, not so much. He did a flip-flop at a very recent council meeting voting with Councilmembers Hugh, Alvarez and Chavira to reject U.S. Representative Franks’ HB 1410 and to begin negotiations with the Tohono O’odham (TO). Many suspect his affirmative vote was pay back to Chavira for Chavira’s vote in support of the arena management deal. “Neither – I will support the project if the Tohono O’odham Nation can be treated as close to a private entity as possible and having some form of revenue stream into the city’s general fund. Additionally, infrastructure including any street improvements, public-safety agreements, et al. would have to be included and enforceable in federal courts. Thus far, in fact-finding sessions, the Nation appears to be very amenable to this. Businesses such as Westgate, Renaissance Hotel, Coyotes and Tanger Outlets, to name a few, are also in support of proposed project. The sports and entertainment district could very well capitalize on a project of this size if it meets the city’s criteria.” He appears to be back-pedaling as he straddles a very narrow  fence, by adding his list of caveats. His declaration that,” Westgate, Renaissance Hotel, Coyotes and Tanger Outlets…are also in support” is downright laughable. There has never been a declaration of public support for the proposed casino from these entities. Have you seen it? I haven’t. Remember when the possibility of losing the Coyotes as an anchor tenant at the arena loomed? Bar and restaurant owners were beside themselves and declared without 40 nights of hockey games they couldn’t make it. They are not going to support a casino that will draw customers away from them knowing that potential consumers will spend disposable income on gambling, subsidized meals and booze and cheap room rates. If they are so willing to commit financial suicide, let’s see them do it publicly. Not one representative of these entities went to the last council meeting when TO negotiations was on the agenda and expressed public support of the project. Sherwood had no public letters of support from these entities that he could read into the record that evening. It’s time for Sherwood to cease making declarations that may not be accurate. Just because he said it, doesn’t make it true.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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