Henderson: Scottsdale sports event season offers more than a spectacle to local community

A view of the excitement offered every year at spring training baseball at Scottsdale Stadium. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Why is Scottsdale different? Because it does things its own, impressive way.

Preserving mountains. Building recreational washes rather than concrete canals. An enduring commitment to the arts. Incredible golf courses. Elevated design standards. Even a “waterfront” in the desert. Distinct special events.

But there’s something else too. And, it doesn’t get talked about enough. Partnerships at two major sporting venues that just don’t give away the farm to sports franchises. They are considerate of taxpayers and community benefits too.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open, known as “The Greatest and Greenest Show on Grass,” is the best-attended golf tournament in the world. (Submitted photo)

I am talking about the Waste Management Phoenix Open and spring training at Scottsdale Stadium.
At a time when the public is understandably tiring of general taxpayer obligations that too generously subsidize the bottom lines of sports franchises, Scottsdale has done it differently.

In the case of the world’s most attended golf tournament, the course is a public facility during the vast majority of the year. And, when it comes to operating the tournament a local charity organization, The Thunderbirds, uses the tournament to raise multiple millions to aid Scottsdale and Valley charities.

There’s no doubt the success of the tournament and all the benefits accrued to Scottsdale are because a local host organization is driving the panache and party.

That holds true for spring training in Scottsdale as well. Sitting just across the street from us, the Cactus League’s “Fenway Park,” otherwise known as Scottsdale Stadium, remains the jewel of the league in a downtown setting like no other. Here too Scottsdale benefits as the Scottsdale Charros run stadium operations, subleasing to the San Francisco Giants.

The Scottsdale Charros have been hosting Spring Training baseball since 1961. To many in our community the Charros are synonymous with Spring Training. The Charros, like The Thunderbirds, are able to use their Charros Lodge and outfield signage revenue to give back millions of dollars to charities like Boys & Girls Clubs of Scottsdale, Family Promise, Miracle League, STARS and a bevy of other local charities.

The Giants make money, the Charros give back and downtown businesses and the city as a whole benefit from the economic activity. It’s a win-win-win.

As some of our local sports franchises have discovered in pursuit of new stadiums, public resistance can be stiff. In this political day and age the public benefits to a host community must be profound if public money is to be used.

That’s something Scottsdale has done right over many years. We’ve all been the beneficiaries of the approach. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Editor’s note: Mr. Henderson is president & CEO of STARS

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