Scottsdale Tourism Development Commission seeks legacy event funding measure

Scottsdale tourism is the community’s No. 1 economic driver with Old Town Scottsdale being a notable lure. (File photo)

The Scottsdale Tourism Development Commission is looking to increase funding levels through an addendum to the existing community event funding program.

By a 6 to 1 vote, the tourism advisory board Tuesday, July 18 approved a recommendation vote to Scottsdale City Council asking the governing board for its blessing in creating an addendum to the municipal event funding program specific to longstanding events held within city limits.

Commissioner Camille Hill was the lone dissenting vote at the July 18 public hearing at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

The addendum says longstanding local events — spectacles held in Scottsdale for more than 40 years — can apply to get multiyear funding contracts between $30,000 and $75,000 to promote and operate the legacy events.

The Tourism Development Commission is a collection of seven tourism professionals appointed by Scottsdale City Council providing recommendations to local policymakers regarding all things tourism.
City officials say the new funding level request will be before Scottsdale City Council in early August.

“We are once again re-evaluating, or looking at, the community event funding program,” said Scottsdale Tourism Development Manager Steve Geiogamah during the July 18 Commission meeting.

“We are looking at the opportunity to revisit based on some of the event contracts that were brought forward last month. We needed some additional criteria for these contract as they are few and far between.”

A view of the Parada Del Sol parade in Scottsdale. (File photo)

Helping events that matter

Tourism Development Commission member Camille Hill says she voted against the recommendation vote because she wanted to see the year threshold lowered.

Camille Hill

“I voted ‘nay’ hoping to reduce the minimum 40-year requirement for multiyear funding pertaining to ‘historic’ events,” she said in a July 18 statement. “I think the minimum should be lower.”

Ms. Hill is the president of Scottsdale-based Merestone, which is a multifaceted meeting and event services company with more than 30 years in business.

“I don’t feel the changes were pursued in a rapid fashion,” she said. “We have been discussing the processes to improve the evaluation process in the event working group for several years. I was not able to attend the last event working group so, missed the discussion.”

Ms. Hill contends the municipal support of community events rises all tides within the Scottsdale tourism community.

“Events can enrich the cultural and historic personality of a community. The city, TDC and Experience Scottsdale work hard to make sure the funding approvals are thoughtful, appropriate and add to the special culture of Scottsdale,” she said. “I think events such as the Parada del Sol, Canal Convergence, Scottsdazzle and others are wonderful additions to the personally and culture of Scottsdale.”

Mr. Geigomah says the addendum to the existing community event funding program is geared toward subsidizing historically significant events that illustrates the community fabric of Scottsdale.

“There’s not very many —- the ones we work with there are roughly four or five that would qualify,” he said of legacy Scottsdale events that fit the criteria. “For example, the culinary festival is a little over 40 years, I believe. The parade, the Parada they both are apart of that.”

Mr. Geigomah points out an addendum to the existing community event funding structure is the quickest way to free up new dollars for legacy events.

“If we created a new program from scratch, someone identified by a different funding pool, if you will, as well as different objectives and criteria that could take us up to six months,” he told the Commission.

“We felt that is was a way to get it done and expedite the process by adding this additional criteria to the one that has existed. If it is recommended by the Commission as presented here this will still need to go to the city council.”

The pending approval of changes to the event funding program comes on the heels of two city council actions on Wednesday, July 5 that provides taxpayer dollars to two long-standing community events: the Parada Del Sol and the Scottsdale International Film Festival.

The July 5 approval puts into place a five-year financial agreement between the city of Scottsdale and the Parada Del Sol Historic Parade pulling from the $1.2 million tourism development fund established for development of local spectacles.

Meanwhile at the same meeting, the city and the Scottsdale International Film Festival entered into an agreement allowing up to $37,500 of taxpayer dollars — funds derived from the same Tourism Development Fund — to underwrite the cinema celebration for the next three years.

Should support, not prop-up

Scottsdale Public Relations Executive Jason Rose — who is also co-founder of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower — says he is both a proponent and critic of certain aspects of the community event funding program.

Jason Rose

He says the program helped him grow the Polo Party into a keynote event drawing tens of thousands to Scottsdale annually, but explains in recent years funding has gone to events that have been held outside of city limits.

“The new event funding program was an exceptionally wise move by voters because it is puts in place a program to encourage the next Barrett-Jackson,” he said in a July 18 phone interview.

“If you are going to grow and provide seed funding for the next Barrett-Jackson it is only wise to support the current Barrett-Jackson that has already proven to be a good return on investment. I can speak from the polo event that it benefited greatly from the program early on but it doesn’t now as it is still growing.”

Mr. Rose says the program ought to not subsidize an event that isn’t pulling its own weight.

“The program should never be tourism welfare,” he said. “If an event has gotten too long in the tooth it is not the taxpayers’ responsibility to service Novocaine.”

But Mr. Rose does point out the program is geared toward providing marketing dollars that promotes Scottsdale as a tourist destination.

“What they say is the money has to be used for advertising and promotions,” he explained. “So long as you meet that criteria you are advertising in and outside of the market of Scottsdale — and that is a good thing. But whatever it may be, if an event is not cutting it, I can’t imagine the Commission passing something that is a subsidy.”

Polo partygoers at last year’s Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower. (File photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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