Opinion: AzLTA supports Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations

The Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association is one of the premier advocates for the state’s lodging and tourism industry. We are integrally involved with and represent many of Arizona’s resorts, hotels, tourist attractions, marketing organizations, arts organizations, airlines, promoters, and professional sports teams. Our members constitute 95,000 hotel guest rooms statewide. The City of Phoenix has been operating a fund derived from tourism, since its inception in 1989, that has provided the necessary funds to maintain Talking Stick Resort Arena. We believe the City should continue that policy and utilize the Sports Facility Funds to update and modernize the nearly 30-year old arena.

We fully understand a “tourism tax” assessed on hotels rooms and rental cars provides the funding for Phoenix to help sustain and maintain Talking Stick Resort Arena. Our organization is a key stakeholder in this conversation, and we enthusiastically support this prudent proposal as a sensible way to maintain a vibrant downtown, recognizing this approach is also a way to help increase tourism and tourism revenues for Phoenix and surrounding areas. The city created a Sports Facility Fund for exactly this purpose, in anticipation of an outdated arena that would eventually need upgrades, improvements and modernizations as the edifice aged. As you know, the fund consists of a 1% sales tax on hotel rooms and a 2% sales tax on car rentals. Over the 30 years this tax has been operating, the AZLTA finds that these rates provide solid funding for the city that is not overly burdensome to our valued hotel and lodging members.

The Arena pays for itself by generating $182 million dollars in direct economic impact to the City of Phoenix, which has always satisfied the mortgage and provided significant funds in tax revenue through food and merchandise sales that ultimately result in public service monies. In addition to the Arena jobs, there are also thousands of other jobs sustained at hotels, restaurants, bars, airports, museums, and retail stores that benefit from the more than 300 events that take place every year at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Research shows that Arena events help bring people to the Valley. The NBA and the Suns are brands known around the globe. In addition to sports, the arena hosts musical, comedy and performance acts that are world-class. We are aware how other cities are working hard to provide fans, guests and visitors the best possible world-class arena, and we believe Phoenix deserves a world-class arena that provides comfortable seating, quality concessions, updated internet access and modern technology, and most importantly reliable and safe infrastructure.

Bottomline, the arena helps to sustain our economy. It provides $13 million each year to the City of Phoenix and nearly $14 million in tax revenue for the state and county. We think a renovated Talking Stick Resort Arena will be continued wise investment for the tourism industry and the City of Phoenix. We urge the Council to approve this proposal.

Kim Sabow is the President and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association.

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