The City of Scottsdale is just months away from breaking ground on a multi-million-dollar Scottsdale Stadium renovation that will provide upgraded facilities for the San Francisco Giants and fans while also increasing the facility’s earning potential for the city.
Though the project has been in the works for years, the city is now nearing the completion of the design phase and preparing to bring funding options before the City Council.
Bill Murphy, Scottsdale Community Services executive director, anticipated that the project will go before the City Council for approval by February.
A major component of the project is a renovation and expansion of the Giants' clubhouse to accommodate the team’s desire for upgraded facilities and space to bring more players to spring training, Murphy said.
The renovation is also about keeping up with the Joneses.
“We’re at a point where there have been a lot of new (Cactus League) stadiums built (for) the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rockies and others and so they always have to keep up with each other,” Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins said.
The project will also feature improvements to the fan experience – including reshaping the outfield grass berm seating area to increase capacity, left field restrooms upgrade and adjustments to the bleacher sections.
Murphy said some of those improvements could increase the stadium’s capacity by 300 to 500 people.
The project will also include a permanent awning to provide shade for fans in the Charro Lodge section in right field.
“We’ve been erecting temporary shade for the past several years at quite a bit of expense,” Robbins said.
In addition, the stadium will undergo some infrastructure and code upgrades – such as wi-fi, concession stand enhancements and bringing parts into ADA compliance.
The renovation will also accomplish the city’s long-term goal to use the stadium as a rentable, multi-use space when it is not being used for baseball.
“The stadium has always been considered to be a multi-use facility … but this new construction and expansion will give us some opportunities for some other areas that we normally did not have available to be utilized,” Murphy said.
Murphy said city staff worked with stakeholders from the local hotel and events community to come up with designs that would fill a need for event space downtown.
“Really the thing that everyone says is here in downtown Scottsdale there really isn’t a large enough (approximately) 10,000-square-foot venue that some of those smaller hotels downtown couldn’t accommodate … And our hope is that we would be able to fit that niche,” Murphy said.
The new clubhouse will double as the stadium’s main interior multi-use facility that the city can rent out to private users and will include approximately 15,800 square feet for events, according to city documents.
The project will also include renovations to the team shop, press box, city offices and ticketing office. Most of those facilities will include area that can double as multi-use space.
Overall, the stadium could have up to 22,890 square feet of interior space and nearly 390,000 square feet of exterior space spread throughout the stadium for multi-use purposes, according to a city staff presentation on the Scottsdale Stadium Masterplan.
Initial city estimates based on the Scottsdale Stadium Masterplan pegged the cost of the project at between $40 million and $60 million, but Murphy said the city will likely have more concrete numbers by the end of January after meeting with contractors.
The city already paid architecture firm Populous Group $244,524 to develop the stadium’s masterplan, and City Council allocated an additional $5 million from the city’s Tourism Development Fund to pay for stadium design.
In July, the City Council awarded a $3,701,125 design-build manager contract for the project to Hunt Construction Group.
The city will likely end up footing a significant portion of the bill, though any city funding would have to be approved by City Council.
The project is unlikely to meet much resistance from the council as the stadium and its main tenant are among the city’s major tourist attractions.
An economic impact study released in July 2018 by the Seidman Research Institute at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business found that the Cactus League had an estimated economic impact of $373 million on the state last year.
As one of the most popular destinations for Cactus League fans – the Giants regularly rank in the top three in Cactus League attendance – Scottsdale is well-positioned to take advantage of that impact.
Scottsdale’s bed tax revenues illustrate that fact.
The bed, or transient lodging, tax is a five percent tax assessed on hotels and other establishments that charge for short-term lodging.
The city took in more bed tax revenues in March during Cactus League play than any other month during the last fiscal year, according to a staff report.
The city’s total bed tax revenue in March 2018 was $3,558,035, accounting for 17.9 percent of total bed tax revenues for that fiscal year. The intake in March was over $1 million higher than April, the next highest grossing month.
“Spring training is the busiest time of the year,” Robbins said. “Our hotels are full, restaurants are full and shops are full and so that’s why it was originally created and that’s why the Charros were started.”
“Our ability to raise funds and give back to charities and to education is really why we do this, so between the economic impact for all of our merchants and the charities and the education that we give back to – that’s why we’re here.”
Murphy and Robbins both said funding for the project would most likely be coming from the city’s bed tax.
Revenues from the bed tax are reserved for projects that support the city’s tourism industry with 50 percent allocated toward destination marketing via a contract with Experience Arizona and the other 50 percent allocated for event support, tourism research and capital projects.
Councilmember Kathy Littlefield said she may suggest that council reallocate bed tax monies previously tied to the Desert Edge project for the stadium renovation.
Last Dec. 11, the City Council approved the termination of all bed tax funds allocated to Desert Edge.
“That would pay for the first stage and some of the second,” Littlefield said.
Robbins said bed tax monies “can’t be used for (anything but) tourism. We can’t (use them to) improve the roads, we can’t buy a fire truck and we can’t staff the library with tourism dollars. Tourism dollars are used for tourism projects and that’s what this is. If people can understand that, then I don’t think we’re going to have a problem.”
Murphy also said the city could look to private stakeholders to help offset the city’s investment in the renovations.
City staff has been in contact with the Giants, the stadium’s concession provider and the Scottsdale Charros. “We have talked to them about that (and) we would be looking for them to assist us in some contributions towards the overall costs,” Murphy said.
Robbins said the Charros have been asked to pay for infrastructure improvements related to the Charro Lodge – estimated to cost between $2 million and $2.5 million.
“We said yes, we’d be happy to pay for our portion of the improvements,” Robbins said.
The city could also pull monies from a stadium capital improvement fund set up under the terms of the agreement signed by the city, Giants and Charros as a part of the 2005 renovations.
All three entities contribute annually to the fund, which currently has a balance of approximately $500,000.
Robbins also pointed out that the Giants recently agreed to make a significant investment in the team’s new practice facilities that are currently under development at Papago Park.
Under agreements between Phoenix, Scottsdale and the Giants, the team signed a 35-year lease at Papago Park and will pay all costs to upgrade and maintain the facilities.
The Giants’ current lease with the city for Scottsdale Stadium expires in 2025 and includes two five-year extensions.
Murphy said the city’s current plan is to work on a longer-term contract with the team.
Pending City Council approval, the city plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project, which includes the new clubhouse and multi-purpose facility, on April 1 – right after spring training ends.
The second phase, which includes the shade structures, berm construction and other improvements, would follow a similar timeline and begin when spring training concludes in 2020.