A House panel agreed Wednesday to help Glendale with some of its 2015 Super Bowl costs, but with a warning that similar relief may not be available to other communities.
The legislation approved by the Committee on Public Safety, Military and Public Affairs would allow any community to seek reimbursement of its police costs for any “major event.” That is classified as something which is awarded by a bid, is broadcast live and that attracts at least 14,000 people.
But the panel trimmed the cap in HB 2547 in half, to just $2 million. That is less than Glendale lobbyist Brent Stoddard told lawmakers the city expects to have to spend on public safety. The legislation self-destructs at the end of next year without legislative reauthorization.
Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, said it may be appropriate to have the state share in the costs rather than saddle the host city with the entire burden. But Pierce said the original legislation would have put the state on the financial hook for other events that communities hope to land. That includes efforts by Phoenix to land the 2016 Republican National Convention and future hopes for an NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
With the self-destruct clause, Pierce said that sets the stage for a special eight-member committee to review what was done, whether improvements in public safety can be made – and whether the Legislature should agree to fund similar events in the future.
While the funding wasn't what was sought by Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, he seemed resigned to the fact this is the best he's going to get.
“It's a whole lot better than nothing,” he said. That assumes the measure survives the rest of the legislative process.
The legislation is being pushed by House Majority Leader David Gowan. The Sierra Vista Republican said the requirements for public safety have grown, not only after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center but also security concerns at the Olympics and last year's bombing of the Boston Marathon.
“I just want to be make sure our public is safe when they attend major events,” he said. Gowan said he sees that as a state responsibility.
Stoddard said that, from a pure financial standpoint, the Super Bowl is a money-losing event for Glendale.
He said a study after the city hosting the 2008 event found a boost of $1.24 million in sales tax revenues, but he said that was far offset by $2.8 million in expenses, $2.3 million of that in public safety costs.
Weiers said it will be worse this time.
On one hand, he said federal agencies have made increased demands on what they expect from the city in security. Conversely, the NFL experience, a multi-day block party of special events, won't generate tourism revenues in Glendale the way it did in 2008 as it is instead being moved to Phoenix.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he was concerned about setting a precedent.
“I see the state getting involved in a system that may not be what we want to get involved in,” he said.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, agreed to go along. He was angry at the idea of Arizona taxpayers being asked to foot the bill for the NFL, calling it “a multi-billion dollar nonprofit (which) doesn't pay taxes” and then makes cities bid to host events.
“Unfortunately, Glendale got caught up in that system and I'm not going to punish them for that,” Gallego said. But he said future events may not get his approval, “especially when it's the kind of organization that is basically being subsidized by the government on a yearly basis.”
But Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, said she does see statewide benefits from events like this.
“People hop in their rental cars, come up north and spend their money,” she said.