Nearby residents are stuck with the WestWorld tent for at least another year as Scottsdale City Council seeks a solution for the large canvas.
City council begrudgingly approved the motion 6-1 in favor of accepting the WestWorld subcommittee’s recommendation of using the 120,460-square-foot tent for another year at its Tuesday, March 7 regular meeting at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
The approved motion also included directing City Manager Jim Thompson to formulate a master plan for WestWorld including the negotiation of a long-term agreement with Barrett-Jackson — the World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions.
During that time, the city would continue to try to sell the tent to another vendor and will receive an additional $100,000 on top of usage fees from Barrett-Jackson every year the tent remains up.
Though all councilmembers — but Councilman David Smith — voted in favor of keeping the tent, several did so with hesitation.
At a May 3, 2016 council meeting, the local governing board approved a contract between the municipality and Barrett-Jackson allowing the tent to stay up for a year and removal of the tent beginning March 1, 2017. The city would receive $100,000 in return for the elongated stay of the tent.
During that time, the city looked to sell the tent for $1 million but had no bidders on it, city officials say.
That date has passed and council opted to add an additional year to the life of the tent at WestWorld, backpedaling on the original date of removal.
A loss of trust
During the public hearing Scottsdale Vice Mayor Suzanne Klapp offered an apology to those in the audience who had been following this issue over the last several months.
“I want to apologize to the neighbors and I understand we have lost your trust,” Vice Mayor Klapp said at a March 7 council meeting.
Ms. Klapp’s sentiment was carried by several other members of council, but a common reason for supporting the motion was the lack of funds to pay for the $2.6 million bill to remove the tent.
Originally, Public Works Director Dan Worth estimated the removal of the tent and site restoration to cost the city $700,000 at a Jan. 19, 2016 work study session.
That number ballooned to $1.6 million this year if the city were to do exactly what it sought to do last year, Mr. Worth said during the council meeting.
However, Mr. Worth presented the possibility of adding additional work including regrading the parking and additional electrical work, bringing the estimated total to $2.6 million.
“I am troubled and extremely disappointed to have talked about this a year ago, looking at a $700,000 price tag to make some changes we felt at the time were good changes,” councilwoman Virginia Korte said during the public meeting.
“Then one year later, seeing a cost differential of 100 percent greater or more. That’s troubling to me. I just don’t understand how that can happen.”
The lone dissension
Mr. Smith’s opposition to the tent’s extended stay at WestWorld centered on the original agreement the city made with the intent of taking down the tent on the specified day.
“It was an agreement that everyone went into eyes wide open and my vote is to honor that agreement,” he said during public hearing.
“I don’t think we need more time to market the tent. I don’t think keeping it up in any way is going to avoid the future cost of replacing the tent fabric.”
Mr. Worth said he believes the tent can stand for two more years without the fabric of the tent giving way. By that point, Mr. Smith worries it might be cheaper to just re-skin the tent rather than remove it as removal charges may increase further.
“We made a promise to the citizens,” Mr. Smith said.
“It’s not just the people in DC Ranch. It’s everybody that goes driving up and down the 101 and they think this is Joe Arpaio’s tent city over there. It is, as somebody said, a public eyesore in the middle of a first-class facility. It needs to come down.”
Several residents from DC Ranch attended the meeting as well to voice their opposition to the tent.
“I think there’s no doubt this is an eyesore and it’s absolutely a piece of garbage in what I would call a world-class venue,” Mike Baker, HOA president of Canyon Heights community, said at the March 7 meeting.
While other nearby residents echoed the sentiment, councilman Guy Phillips said the city should not tear down the tent just because it is ugly.
Mr. Phillips said the city is in competition with other communities and could lose a significant amount of tourism money to those markets because companies that use the tent might pull out of WestWorld.
Mr. Jackson, during the public comment, alluded to the tent playing a factor in Barrett-Jackson’s future at WestWorld.
“We have to figure out what we will do with this tent because if you take it down and don’t remediate the area, we won’t be here. It’s a simple deal,” Mr. Jackson said at the March 7 meeting.
However, this possibility did not sway Mr. Smith in his vote because he said events come and go in the city.
“I don’t make council decisions on the basis of that because frankly, I don’t represent event producers, I represent the citizens,” Mr. Smith said in a March 14 phone interview. “In this case, I think the citizens were speaking with one voice. They want the tent down.”
While Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield voted in favor of the year extension, she said she still had unanswered questions including how the city is advertising the sale of the tent, why were there no answers back and how much is the cost to remove the tent going to go up next year.
With all these questions in mind, she said she wants to keep a close eye on the next year’s efforts.
“Another thing, Mr. city manager, I will put this squarely on your shoulders,” Ms. Littlefield said to Mr. Thompson at the March 7 meeting.
“I want to have an overall plan of where we want to go at WestWorld, what we want to do and how we’re going to get there. And that includes all of the little gory details about elevations and water flows and excavations and electrical plans. Everything.”
News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 623-445-2738