Scottsdale City Council waver over additional WestWorld investment

WestWorld is located 16601 N. Pima Road in Scottsdale. (photo by city of Scottsdale)

WestWorld is located 16601 N. Pima Road in Scottsdale. (photo by city of Scottsdale)

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously voted to continue the discussion of allocating up to $300,000 to update the WestWorld Municipal Use Master Site Plan.

At the regular city council meeting on Nov. 28, the council requested city staff bring forth an overview of operations at WestWorld and the business case for additional investment before discussing the item further at a later meeting.

The WestWorld facilities include more than 300,000 square feet of climate-controlled exhibition space on 386 acres, located just off the Loop 101 between Bell Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.

Annual events such as the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, the Good Guys Car Show, International Sportsmen’s Expo and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show take place on the property.

City staff was requesting an update to the WestWorld Municipal Use Master Site Plan and the allocation of $300,000 from the Tourism Development Fund for the development of a Municipal Use Master Site Plan.

Additionally, staff requested the initiation of several other zoning-related actions regarding the area zoned as Western Theme Park as well as a consolidation of existing Conditional Use Permits into a new Conditional Use Permit.

Dan Worth, public works director, presented some uses of the proposed allocation. According to a staff proposal, these suggestions came about when staff “identified several unmet capital needs to further maximize the use of the facility.”

Those determined unmet capital needs yielded several potential projects WestWorld would focus on with the allocation. These ideas included street improvements, acquiring land and lighting as well as public input on the projects.

While staff recommended council grant the full amount, the Tourism Development Commission recommended the city council only grant $150,000 from the Tourism Development Funds, by a 5-2 vote on Oct. 18.

(photo by city of Scottsdale)

(photo by city of Scottsdale)

Not an ordinary project

The city council focused its Nov. 28 discussion on the ask for $300,000.

In its recommendation the Tourism Development Commission suggested the council consider a General Fund request for the remaining amount as part of the normal Capital Improvement Project development and approval process, which would postpone any Municipal Use Master Site Plan work until after the fiscal year 2017-18 CIP budget is approved.

Moreover, the proposal did not go before the WestWord Subcommittee, something that was concerning to several councilmembers including Mayor Jim Lane.

After Mr. Worth’s presentation, councilman David Smith voiced his concern on spending money the city didn’t have on projects that needed council approval such as street paving. Mr. Worth added he wants to see the city find more money before any potential investments such as WestWorld.

“We need to get ourselves back on the path of sustainability but the capital investments I had in mind, I don’t know about the rest of my colleagues up here, were not additional capital investments at Westworld where we have spent tens of millions of dollars for the past several years and every time we turn around, there is an additional need,” Mr. Smith said during the Nov. 28 meeting.

This sentiment was echoed by several other councilmembers, who were also concerned the city has other needs that should take priority over investing money into WestWorld.

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven suggested the council take a look at WestWorld as an enterprise fund and focus on what the business case would look like.

“If we were to invest another dollar in WestWorld, what would be the dollar benefit to this city for making that additional investment I might suggest we take a step back and revisit the business case for WestWorld?” Ms. Milhaven asked during the Nov. 28 meeting.

However, Mayor Lane said WestWorld was not like any other CIP the city has because of how much it brings into the city as a tourist destination.

“This is our primary event center,” Mr. Lane said during the Nov. 28 meeting. “There isn’t anything that is more closely associated, other than the TPC, with tourism and recovery on tourism dollars and tourism bed tax dollars.”

Mayor Lane did support the rest of the council on already presented concerns and brought up how he wished the proposal went through the WestWorld Subcommittee — an oversight group including Mayor Lane and councilmembers Guy Phillips and Suzanne Klapp.

Ms. Klapp agreed with the mayor and said the subcommittee is created for the purpose of helping better establish a proposal for the council.

“You’ve got three city councilmembers that can give you a first-blush comment on a plan like this,” Ms. Klapp said during the Nov. 28 meeting. “Whenever this business plan is developed, I would like to see it come not to the council as a work study, but first come to the WestWorld Subcommittee so we can discuss it and give you feedback before it comes back to the full council. I think that would be helpful for you to get whatever our reactions are to this before you take it to the entire council for a work study session.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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