We have already weighed in on the repackaged Desert Discovery Center now known as Desert Edge. It calls to mind a name more reminiscent of a bad country band than a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Our purpose now is not to regurgitate our most recent opinion (here is a link.) It’s to raise a worthwhile question: opportunity cost.
Proponents suggest taking tens of millions of tourism AND preserve tax dollars is worthwhile. They say so because they believe the project can be self-sustaining (it won’t) and a major new tourism draw for the city.
But ask yourself this, who is going to come to Scottsdale just because of a glorified interpretive center, as opposed to that which it seeks to accentuate, and already exists?
Think of it this way, no matter what those on the edge of advocacy for their pet project can cull together it won’t be cooler or more dramatic than El Tovar at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. But people don’t travel to northern Arizona to see something man-made. They do so because of the natural wonder. And so will it be in Scottsdale.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve with its extensive trails, views and majesty already IS a huge tourism draw.
So why not better highlight it, or expand it, rather than divert funds from both of these purposes?
Just think of how much more impactful $30 million in tourism marketing and advertising showcasing the Preserve to audiences around the world would be, rather than divert such money to a Desert Botanical Garden knock-off?
Or how much better it would be to spend preserve tax dollars to preserve even more rather than to preserve a deficient “discovery center” on the desert’s edge?
Opponents have done an exceptionally good job driving the debate over the past year plus. Commercial activity in the preserve. Polling results. The justifiable need for a public vote. And cost. But it’s not just cost. For Scottsdale, it’s the opportunity cost as well.