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Scottsdale’s $60 Million Opportunity Cost

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.


  • Excellent article, right on target and time to get serious about the financial hit.

  • Mike Norton

    Last night I watched the Windgate Ranch homeowners vehemently dismantle the DDCSI presentation. This was not a one man show or an attack led by a few loud voices. This was an entire room erupting in anger over an offense to our Community, our rights as voters, and our McDowell Mountains. In the recent poll that 9,000 people saw and 2,000 people answered, 116 said they like the DDC. After watching the Windgate crowd, I feel like I should check those 116 Yes votes to see if they were bots.

    It is hard to imagine any other project in this history of this City that was so universally hated by voters. If they build it, Scottsdale will still hate it. That repulsive building will stand forever as a monument to political stupidiity and abuse of voters.

    One footnote: During last nights meeting a well informed citizen reminded us of one more financial problem. The 643 homes near Ground Zero will decline an estimated 10 to 12% in value hurting not only the owners but also a permanent loss of property tax revenue to this City.

    The Opportunity Lost equation keeps adding integrals.

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