By Jim Gannarelli
CEO, Mazatzal Casino
The editorial and article from the Sept. 3 Roundup regarding the event center both indicate the Tonto Apaches are key to the project. Most people are not aware, but the casino presented, on numerous occasions, a viable solution to town officials over the past three years. Our solution does not cost the taxpayers, does not require town dollars, and does not provide incentives to the tribe.
The casino offered to cover the event center, pave the parking, add restrooms, a food service area, and subsidize the parks and recreation budget. In return, the casino asked for a 50-year lease at $1 per year. The town would retain all ownership.
I discussed this with the previous and current town manager, Mayor Ken Murphy, numerous town councilors, and Mr. Whiting before last year's referendum regarding the event center.
As noted in the editorial, the town must inject money and offer incentives that likely will prove very costly to the town.
The Roundup's view is very much like the Phoenix City Council approving the 40-year license agreement with Jerry Colangelo and the Diamondbacks. If all went perfect, Phoenix would get a return of one-half of 1 percent on the taxpayers' $230-million investment. As we all know, the deal has not gone perfect. The current payback to Phoenix is over 300 years. But, of course, Mr. Colangelo has done very well, as I suspect HSG/Grace will. I have been involved in negotiations on projects with the Grace Company; they are as tough as Colangelo.
The editorial states, "The Tonto Apache Tribe also needs to buy into the project. If they don't, they're likely to find themselves outside looking in."
They are more likely to find themselves in debt, as will the town, if they sign an agreement to operate only the event center and amphitheater. The profit is in the convention center, hotel, and restaurant, of which I assume someone else will profit.
I predict a minimal tax increase, due to a shift from current hotel restaurant operators. Also, the tribe is probably one of the highest, if not the highest, contributor to charities in Gila County. I saw nothing in the article that discussed community involvement from the developers.
The casino would welcome the project, but we would be more pleased to bring something to the town that will not risk taxpayer dollars. Could the casino be the ideal solution?