Hidden Editorial: PGA Subsidy

This was in the Republic this morning, presumably written by Editorial Page editor Grant Martin. Obviously, I disagree. You can read my thoughts on this subject in an article I published in December 2012.

City is wise to invest in Phoenix Open, its preeminent event

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is far from perfect. Its crowds can be under­dressed and overserved. The byzantine shuttle system to and from parking lots is a constant source of frustration. The course itself is too forgiving to ade­quately challenge today’s top profes­sionals.

And yet it remains a terrific invest­ment for Scottsdale, despite claims to the contrary made by a small but vocal contingent of city residents eager to look this gift course in the mouth.

In December, the city agreed to pay for $15 million in renovations to the TPC Stadium Course and clubhouse as part of a lease amendment with the PGA Tour. City Council’s unanimous support of this spending outraged those few residents, who subsequently dug up a report — of dubious validity, ac­cording to City Treasurer David Smith — indicating the city loses about $1 million hosting the tournament each year.

Such subsidization of a private event is not just unpalatable but possibly illegal, according to local financial analyst Mark Stuart, who says he’s considering challenging the amend­ment in court as an illegal gift to the PGA.

“Welfare to the wealthy is repugnant to most people,” he said.

We couldn’t agree more. But paint­ing Scottsdale’s commitment to its best-­attended annual event as “welfare” is an absurd mis-characterization of the facts at-hand.

For starters, city taxpayers aren’t the ones paying for the renovations. That $15 million will come from bed-tax funds and revenue generated from the course itself, according to acting City Manager Dan Worth. The opportunity to use tourism-generated dollars to enhance events like the Phoenix Open is the very reason for the bed tax in the first place.

And even if the city is indeed losing $1 million annually in paying for the annual upkeep of its most famous golf course, the return on that investment is enormous. The Phoenix Open generates about $4.5 million annually in sales taxes for Scottsdale — easily enough to offset the city’s expenditures in course maintenance.

Lastly, it’s not as if the city’s new deal with the PGA Tour is as one-sided as a back-alley mugging. The tour com­mitted to increasing its fees paid to Scottsdale by about $4 million over 20 years and holding the tournament at the course through 2022.

That renewed commitment is of vital importance for this city. Scottsdale’s Convention and Visitors Bureau couldn’t dream up a better marketing mechanism than the tournament, which coincided this year with a massive storm that blanketed much of the Northeast in snow.

It might be impossible to assign a dollar amount for each pang of envy snowed-in viewers felt as Phil Mick­elson stuffed his third-round tee shot on the famous 16th hole to 1 foot from the pin, delighting the thousands in short sleeves and flip-flops in the surround­ing bleachers — but that hardly ren­ders Scottsdale’s exposure irrelevant.

What’s truly irrelevant are these claims of fiscal irresponsibility and illegal subsidization, which are so un­founded, so utterly ludicrous, as to make us long for the days when resi­dents complained about ice-cream trucks instead.


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