A couple of years ago, City Council embarked on a vision to expand WestWorld to seven acres under roof and climate control the entire building. It wasn’t a very well thought-out vision and voters were never consulted. There was no business plan; there was no marketing plan; construction costs were hastily estimated; and Council’s decision required the waiver of several financial policies.
Construction costs were estimated at $43 million, but over-ran more than 20% to $53 million. New events were predicted to add $2.0 million of revenues this year, but are now expected to generate only a tenth of that. The Bureau of Reclamation and three event sponsors who promised financial support for debt service have not yet signed agreements. Even the big tent that was supposed to be sold still stands!
So now we live with bad planning and broken promises. WestWorld’s operating loss after debt service will be huge next year…$(8.0) million. That’s a full $(3.3) million worse than two years ago, meaning $3.3 million less for public safety, libraries, parks and other General Fund services.
The investment will never pay for itself, but the facility can contribute to the livability of our community and provide a small return to citizens. Which leads me to share the following story…
Friday, we had the joy of attending WestWorld’s first Fourth of July celebration. It was everything we hoped for…and more! Thanks to climate control, thousands of attendees – mostly young families, but a few proud grandparents, as well – spent the Fourth in the cool comfort of an indoor playground.
There were children’s events for all ages: face-painting, arcade games, air-filled slides and live entertainment. Stunt performers thrilled the kids (and a fair number of adults, as well!) with their skate board and mini-bike gymnastics. Crowds sat mesmerized and broke into spontaneous applause after each “dare-devil” stunt. Many of the children just enjoyed the chance to laugh, run and play freely.
Hotdogs – the traditional food of the Fourth – were available by the thousands; relish toppings included favorites of Chicago, New York and the Southwest. Snow cones, watermelon slices and cupcakes were the sweet treats for the day.
It was a day good for business, as well. I stopped by one of the traditional WestWorld food vendors, “Doug & Rita’s.” Rita was excited – she’s never had a chance to do business on the Fourth of July.
The day ended spectacularly when everyone went outside to enjoy a pleasant summer evening in Arizona, sharing the elaborate fireworks display. Once the fireworks ended, the youngest revelers went silently home, sound asleep on shoulders or in strollers, dreaming of a happy Fourth of July.
Events like this celebration fulfill a vision of citizens to improve the livability of our city. I ask for your support in the upcoming Council election to make more of your citizen visions come true.