Sports complex project persevering after Mesa Plays failure
Whether they pass or fail, not all bills are created equal. Despite a 2018 failure, the Mesa Plays bill continues to live and evolve from its original presentation.
The bill originally proposed the creation of 24 athletic fields, including 10 artificial turf fields, in one massive sports complex located on the corner of 80th St. and Adobe Road, just southeast of Red Mountain High School.
One of the major reasons the City of Mesa wants to build this new complex is to provide high-quality, well-lit fields available for youth usage. Mesa Mayor John Giles said, “We have a real shortage in Mesa of lighted athletic fields for youth sports… We could schedule another 1,000 hours per week of lighted athletic fields between soccer, baseball, football, field hockey, and all the things that people want to do.”
The original planned location was prime real estate for the city. Mayor Giles said, “We have over 100 acres of property that was given to the City of Mesa by the Bureau of Land Management with the restriction that it has to be used for recreational purposes.”
The average Mesa homeowner would’ve had to pay $24 per year, while tourism taxes on hotels and revenue generated by the complex would pay for the rest of the expenses. That revenue could reach astronomical levels thanks, in part, to the tourism the sports complex would attract. At full booking capacity, the facility would have an annual economic output of over $365 million, and the complex would bring in over 400,000 annual visitors while supporting nearly 3,500 sustainable jobs.
But the bill failed to pass. Questions 4, 5, and 6 made up the bill, and while Q4 passed with a 6.11 percent margin, Q5 and Q6 both failed with a combined margin of 3.11 percent. Mayor Giles attributed the failed vote to dissatisfaction with taxpayer-funded sports facilities ever since the attempted Arizona Cardinals stadium in Mesa. He added, “Half of the project did pass, so you’re going to see a lot of nice, new fields there… And maybe once that happens and we can go back later and say let’s go ahead and finish the project if the voters see what a great facility this is.”
Going forward, the project has a few options, one of which is to bring slightly adjusted propositions before the people again, but Mayor Giles said, “I think the voters have spoken and I’m pessimistic the voters are going to change their minds on the stadium side of it.”
The project also has the option of using a different location and funding privately, as the current location will not allow for non-public use. VisitMesa CEO and president Marc Garcia, who was not at liberty to share specifics, said, “At least two other parcels of land are being explored by a private sector entity.”
Garcia added, “If it does come to fruition, I think it will be very successful because it will have our support.” The project in some ways seems like an inevitability.