In 2011 Auburn played Oregon for the college football national championship. The game might have been occurred in Glendale but Scottsdale was the city overrun with events, tourists and shoppers. At Scottsdale Fashion Square. Along the Arizona Canal where ESPN staged. And on an empty lot next to Olive & Ivy that was the site of concerts, special events, college bands, rallies and people that fed into our shops, galleries and restaurants.
Fast forward to 2017. It was hard to notice much of a Final Four impact in Scottsdale, unless you were in one of the nightclubs at 1am. Not that such partying is a bad thing. And there’s no doubt the city’s hotels got a lift too.
But for anyone that took in some or all of college basketball’s biggest showcase the energy for the mega event was indisputably in downtown Phoenix and Glendale.
That’s because the property that allowed Scottsdale to so successfully host activities in 2011 was developed into one of the city’s biggest eyesores – a mustard apartment complex — years subsequent. History could have been different. There were voices that encouraged the city to acquire the property. It would have been expensive. It would have been tough. But that’s what vision often requires.
We can all lament but that disserves Scottsdale. For when tourists have a great time in your downtown they become ambassadors for life, sycophants for the Southwest’s best city. So, are there solutions? Perhaps.
One is the Scottsdale Civic Center, which beautifully hosts an arts festival and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival but appears to be ill-suited for more. Some have argued for reworking the beautiful outdoor mall. It’s time. And that could or perhaps should involve relocating the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and/or the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to elsewhere in downtown to make more room for events that fill up rooms.
Second, Scottsdale Fashion Square is set to ask for aggressive development heights. We are sensitive to their requests because of the economic significance the mall plays for the Scottsdale treasury. But it can be fairly asked of anyone asking for height, how does it benefit the community? Well, protection of the economic asset just mentioned is one, but useful open space would be another.
Third, Scottsdale owns the land in and around the old Loloma transit station in downtown, adjacent to the beautiful Museum of the West. Here seemingly sits another opportunity to seize back some municipal mojo for Scottsdale, in much the same way Tempe Beach Park has done for Mill Avenue, especially with its proximity to the galleries on Main Street and notable local eateries that have emerged in the area.
Fourth, notwithstanding its lack of notoriety for this most recent mega-event Scottsdale is still blessed with several of its own. And it has one smaller one with exceptional potential, Canal Convergence. The city should commit necessary, legal and available resources to expand this event.
Fifth, while the Scottsdale City Council has rightfully invested significant resources into WestWorld those reluctant to do more ignore today’s dynamics, just as occurred after 2011. WestWorld is a good events center. It can be even better. It is a jewel for Scottsdale that must continue to be polished, especially with the competition from Salt River Fields and the aforementioned emergence of alternate sites in Glendale, Tempe and Phoenix.
What’s the old adage? Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them? Let’s hope repetition doesn’t occur again, especially after this fair admonition.