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Cactus “Art” Statues Coming to Downtown Phoenix for MLB All-Star Game

[Source: Claire Lawton, PNT’s Jackalope Ranch]

In late May, you might spot a few painted, logo-plastered cactus statues in popular spots around Downtown.

Major League Baseball representatives say 10, 7-foot-tall, 700-pound statues will be placed in Phoenix as part of the celebrations for the All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12.

Think Cow Parade (the international public art campaign with artist-painted cows in various cities) but less arty, and more corporate.

MLB.com

The statues, designed by licensee Forever Collectibles, will feature logos and graphics of each of the 30 MLB teams and important moments in Arizona Diamondback history. (Quick note to MLB: probably better not to use “erected across downtown Phoenix” when talking about cactus art.)

Miniatures will be on sale at the MLB All-Star FanFest, at the Phoenix Convention Center from July 8 through 12.
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D-backs & Downtown Phoenix Ready for Opening Day

D-backs & Downtown partners invite public to party and help Foundation for Blind Children

There is nothing in America like Opening Day of a new baseball season and there is no better way to celebrate it than gathering with friends and family to tailgate before the first pitch. CityScape in downtown Phoenix will be the center of activity all week long, culminating in a Friday afternoon tailgate party as the Arizona Diamondbacks open the home season against the Cincinnati Reds at 6:40 p.m. on April 8 at Chase Field.

The warm-up begins Monday when the D-backs open a three-game series in Wrigley Field against Chicago Cubs. The three day-games will be televised daily beginning at 11 a.m. on a large-screen television in Patriots Square at CityScape.

On Friday, the party really begins. D-backs fans who are attending the game, or who just want to be close to the action and enjoy the festivities associated with Opening Day, are invited to attend a free public celebration in downtown Phoenix.

Friday’s events at CityScape begin at 11 a.m. with live music, including a 30-minute musical set by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers from 12-12:30 p.m. T-shirt giveaways will occur throughout the day, along with interactive speed pitch and t-ball activities.

At 3:30 p.m. the public is invited to attend an Opening Day tailgate party, “Ditch the Grind For the Blind” – presented by the D-backs, FOX Sports Arizona, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, and CityScape’s RED Development.

For a $100 donation to Foundation for Blind Children, fans can get a ticket to the game, free food, beer and/or sodas, parking, live music and pre-game festivities. If you already have a ticket to the game, a $50 donation is accepted for the VIP party, parking and fun. People can reserve a spot by contacting Barbara Smith at 602-331-7901.

“We’re proud to have such wonderful community partners where we can enjoy America’s pastime while helping Arizona’s blind children,” said Marc Ashton, CEO of Foundation for Blind Children.

Even if fans do not choose to make a donation to the charity, the public can enjoy food from Oakville Grocery, listen to live music, enjoy the Beer Garden and celebrate Opening Day before heading to the game. For those who don’t have tickets, the party will continue and the FOX Sports Arizona game broadcast will be shown live on a large-screen television in the park at CityScape. Post-game festivities will begin following the final out, including an extended Opening-Night fireworks display from Chase Field.

“CityScape was built with this kind of day in mind,” said Jeff Moloznik of RED Development. “We are happy to provide the location to host this event and support the D-backs, their great fans, and help everyone share in the fun of Opening Day, while supporting a great cause like Foundation for Blind Children. We want to make this an annual tradition.”

Lots of bling coming to downtown Phoenix

[Source: KTAR.com]

The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns have formed a partnership to create an atmosphere in downtown Phoenix mindful of New York City’s Times Square and Las Vegas.

The Legends Entertainment District will offer nearly 50,000 square feet of unique marketing opportunities with a blend of digital signage and super-graphic static billboards, including the largest signage available anywhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Officials said the project is the first of its kind between two professional organizations.

“The new Legends Entertainment District, an attraction in itself, will help connect all the other downtown attractions, assuring visitors a more memorable and exciting downtown experience,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “Instead of heading home after a sporting event, concert or meal, visitors will want to stick around and continue enjoying downtown, thus bringing revenue to our city. This creative partnership is a win-win for all.”

The Legends Entertainment District was strategically planned to encompass landmark downtown facilities such as US Airways Center and Chase Field where more than 700 downtown events are held each year.

“The unique working relationship shared by the Suns and D-backs expands the value of associating brands with our teams,” said Suns President and CEO Rick Welts. “The Legends Entertainment District creates outdoor marketing opportunities that extend the reach of our partners beyond the walls of our playing facilities in the regions busiest corridor.”

The signage is to be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting in the second quarter of 2011.

“The look and feel associated with the Legends Entertainment District will enhance the experience for sports fans and others attending more than 700 downtown events as the vibrant signage will continue to increase traffic for local businesses and restaurants,” said D-backs’ President and CEO Derrick Hall. “More than 100,000 people will attend downtown events associated with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Chase Field in July 2011, putting the Legends Entertainment District on a global stage when viewers around the world tune in to watch the historic game.”

The Legends Entertainment District extends from First Avenue to Seventh Street, between Washington and Jackson Streets. It includes two METRO Light Rail stations, providing easy accessibility to the area.

Judd Norris, general manager of Legends Entertainment District, said, “The City of Phoenix has given us a blank canvas to work with. The Legends marketing partners will have the ability to push the envelope and create marketing concepts that have never been seen before in our downtown. The goal of the Legends Entertainment District is to push the limits of what is new and fresh in the marketing community.”

According to The Arizona Republic, the district will have electronic billboards four to five stories tall. Giant LED TVs could cover the sides of buildings, and animated advertisements may promote products or downtown businesses.

The aim is to create more energy to encourage people to linger outside the major stadium events to shop, eat and drink downtown.

The city, the Suns and the Diamondbacks all stand to gain financially from the initiative. Additional retail sales downtown would bring additional sales-tax dollars for Phoenix. The teams would earn money from ad sales and sponsorships.

City and team officials say they do not know how much revenue the district could generate. But experts told The Republic such districts can increase revenues by millions of dollars as they spur economic growth around them.

Jeff Soule, a planner and outreach director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Planning Association, said entertainment and signage districts have been around for years, but more recently, they have been defined as an area surrounding sports entertainment centers, stadiums or arenas.

“It’s a place where you can capitalize on foot traffic and try to keep people in the downtown longer,” Soule said. “It’s good for tax revenues obviously, sales tax or whatever.”

Other experts are more skeptical. An entertainment district doesn’t always catch visitor interest and increase foot traffic, said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. He said he knows of entertainment districts in Richmond, Va., and Louisville, Ky., that have collapsed.

The Phoenix City Council and Planning Department approved zoning changes in 2009 to allow development of the district.

The Republic said that a group that had planned a separate entertainment district for downtown, the Jackson Street Entertainment District, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The 12-acre district was proposed as a mix of nightclubs, restaurants, and commercial and residential space.

Downtown Phoenix Vendors suffering along with the Diamondbacks

[Source: myFOXphoenix.com]

It’s a one-two punch — the Diamondbacks‘ poor attendance and the down economy are causing baseball vendors’ livelihoods to suffer.

The Diamondbacks are in last place in their division, and are just not bringing in the fans that they used to. That’s hurting vendors in and around Chase Field, who rely on big crowds to stay afloat.

Jawhar Karim sells soda and cracker jacks outside Chase Field. He says he’s extended hours to try and make up the difference.

“We starting to see the effect of Diamondbacks season but were hanging in, trying to make the best of it,” says Karim.

Bonnie Little is a pedi-cab driver. She says fewer fans means fewer rides around downtown Phoenix. She survives on tips.

“Fewer rides. Just getting people on the bike is difficult. Doing a lot of free rides and hoping they’ll tip us for bringing them down,” says Little.

Just last month, the Diamondbacks set an all-time franchise record low for attendance, with only 15,509 people showed up for the game. Downtown vendors are hoping things will turn around soon.

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Jackson Street Entertainment District on shaky ground

Rendering of proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District

[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — A blockbuster plan to create a downtown Phoenix entertainment district is in jeopardy as the lender filed a notice of trustee sale on several of the properties involved.  At the same time, three major Valley high-rise condo projects are poised for major court dates that could dramatically affect their future viability.

ML Manager LLC, the company created to administer the loans of Mortgages Ltd. following its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, filed a notice of trustee sale March 17 on several parcels that would have formed the core of the proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District.  The auction is scheduled for June 17.  SOJAC I LLC, headed by former co-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dale Jensen, was the entity that borrowed $24.2 million from Mortgages Ltd. in February 2007 to purchase properties on Third, Fourth, Buchanan, and Lincoln streets.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Despite mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix feels real estate, consumer stress

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon extolled the economic resilience of downtown Phoenix [last] week during this annual “State of Downtown” speech.  Gordon said Arizona State University’s expansion of its downtown campus, construction of the mixed-use CityScape project, and the light rail system are helping the area. He also said while sales tax revenue is down citywide, it is up 13 percent in downtown Phoenix.  “Yes, it’s been a tough year economically for everyone.  You’ve heard all about it, read all about and felt it,” Gordon said.  “But in spite of it all, we’ve still got a lot going on in downtown Phoenix.”

Notwithstanding the mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix faces some economic problems.  High-rise condominium developers face questionable financial futures because of troubles with pricing and occupancy.  The Hotel Monroe redevelopment at Central Avenue and Monroe Street remains stalled, and the boarded-up building has become a haven for pigeons.  The total amount of vacant space in downtown Phoenix stands at 1.05 million square feet — up from 630,400 square feet in the first quarter of 2007, according to Colliers International.  The downtown vacancy rate is 13.8 percent, compared with 8.5 percent in first-quarter 2007, according to Colliers.

Downtown also is feeling the effects of pulled-back consumer spending.  A number of downtown businesses have closed because of the recession, including Weiss Guys Car Wash at Grand Avenue and Van Buren Street and the China Inn restaurant at the Colliers Center.

The two downtown pro sports teams also face economic challenges.  The Arizona Diamondbacks had a poor season on the field and drew about 381,000 fewer fans than in 2008, according to ESPN.  The Phoenix Suns have gotten off to strong start on the court — but, like other sports teams, they face hurdles in attracting and keeping fans during the consumer doldrums.  [Note: Read the full article at Despite mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix feels real estate, consumer stress.]

Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war

Collier Center, downtown Phoenix (Photo: HooverDam, Skyscraper Forum)

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The next shoe to drop in the legal fight over special tax breaks and subsidies for developers could be over the 100 percent tax exemptions ponied up for high-profile projects such as ASU SkySong in Scottsdale and enjoyed by professional sports teams.  That action could come after the Arizona Supreme Court decides whether a $97 million tax break for the CityNorth mixed-use development in northeast Phoenix is constitutional under state law.  A judgment in that case isn’t expected before the end of the year, but those opposed to developer subsidies already are strategizing for future battles.

The first is a lawsuit expected to be filed over government property lease excise taxes, or GPLETs.  These funding mechanisms allow government entities that own land to lease it back to private developers and businesses, which then pay lower-than-normal property taxes.  The Goldwater Institute and Arizona Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said they plan to file suit to do away with GPLETs.

Cheuvront wants to sue to try to stop the tax breaks.  Clint Bolick, attorney for the Goldwater Institute, said the conservative think tank also is looking at other tax arrangements to determine whether they are legal.  “We’re just beginning to burrow deeply into GPLETs,” Bolick said.  “To the extent that lease rates are below market after tax benefits are taken into consideration, it may represent an illegal subsidy, and also may violate equal protection of the law if similarly situated tenants are paying more in private buildings.”

As that case works its way through the courts, the same skeptics want to go after entities including SkySong, the Arizona Cardinals, the Phoenix Suns, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, which pay no property taxes because they lease their facilities from city or county governments.  None of those arrangements are considered GPLETs, though that mechanism has been used extensively for downtown Phoenix developments including the Colliers Center, Arizona Center, and Renaissance office towers.  The new Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Goodyear also is a GPLET.

Real estate developers and business interests say striking down the CityNorth subsidy, GPLETs or other tax incentives would discourage investments and economic development.  [Note: Read the full article at Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war.]

Suns, Diamondbacks acquire downtown Phoenix garage

[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — The Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks ball clubs jointly have acquired the Jefferson Street Parking Garage from the city of Phoenix.  A legal entity representing both major league teams is now operating the 1,456-space parking garage at 333 E. Jefferson St.  The Phoenix Business Journal reported in April 2008 that the city council had approved a $20 million lease-purchase agreement with the teams after a year of negotiations.

It took another 15 months to close the deal, but according to the city’s interim Finance Director Jeff DeWitt, the added hold time benefited the city.  “We wanted to hold it as long as possible to receive revenue,” DeWitt said.

The change of ownership officially took place July 31. DeWitt confirmed that the ball clubs paid $20 million for the garage.  The city will need the $20 million to reimburse RED Development Co. for renovating and adding public parking at the site of the CityScape development at Jefferson Street and Central Avenue.  But there are conditions to that payment, according to DeWitt.

RED must meet the terms of its agreement with the city, including receiving a certificate of occupancy from the city certifying that its underground parking area is fully completed.  DeWitt said officials at RED have projected a completion in early 2010.  In the meantime, the city will earn interest on the $20 million, he said.  [Note: Read the full article at Suns, Diamondbacks acquire downtown Phoenix garage.]

UOP Stadium outranks downtown Phoenix arenas in fan survey

2007_BCS_National_Championship.JPG[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The University of Phoenix Stadium outranks the region’s other pro sports venues, according to fan surveys conducted by ESPN and the University of Oregon. The ESPN magazine survey asked 5,000 fans nationwide their impressions of pro sports teams, owners, stadiums, and arenas.

The UOP Stadium in Glendale, home to the Arizona Cardinals, ranked 24th on the list.  The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in downtown Phoenix came in 39th for stadium experience. Jobing.com Arena where the financially struggling Phoenix Coyotes play came in 72nd ahead of the Suns.  The Phoenix Suns’ US Airways Center ranked 88th among the 122 pro sports franchise stadiums and arenas. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix sees fall in crime reports

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The number of reported crimes in downtown Phoenix has plummeted more than 50 percent since 1999, and it dropped nearly 10 percent from 2007 to 2008, police statistics show. The drop is the result of old-fashioned police work, a national decrease in crime, and a downtown building spree that has transformed the neighborhood, police and other experts say.

Phoenix is in good company.  Several major U.S. cities, including New York and Philadelphia, have turned once-seedy downtown neighborhoods into tourist areas. But an expert says that even the most successful downtowns must always be mindful about public perceptions about safety.

The city has come a long way since strolling prostitutes were a familiar sight downtown decades ago.  And it’s gotten much safer during the last few years, too, gallery owner Greg Esser said. When Esser and his wife opened the Eye Lounge art space eight years ago, they were afraid to leave the door unlocked during business hours.  Now, they don’t worry about crime much. “Instead of open-air drug deals, there are strollers and joggers and a lot more people on the street,” Esser said.

Since 1990, downtown Phoenix has gained the Arizona Center shopping mall, two sports arenas, a larger convention center, a slew of condo projects, more art galleries, and an ASU campus, said David Roderique, president and CEO of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. Now Diamondbacks fans linger in neighborhood eateries long after the ninth inning and convention attendees feel at ease roaming downtown streets.  “As we put more activities and businesses downtown that have later hours, we create more comfort zones,” Roderique said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]