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Arizona House approves bill funding big events

UOPStadiumThe city of Glendale would get up to $2 million to pay security costs associated with next year’s Super Bowl under a bill approved Wednesday by the Arizona House of Representatives.

But the proposal by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, drew opposition from some Democrats and Republicans who called it an outright handout to Glendale that is being given despite the city’s efforts to draw the Cardinals and their new stadium to the city.

“Now, after having won this stadium for the city, now we’re being told this stadium is such a cost, such a burden on the city, that we need to bail the city out,” said Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa. “I just feel like it’s inappropriate for them to be coming now and asking for these tax dollars.”

But with the bipartisan opposition also came support from both sides of the aisle, a rarity in the Legislature.

“This bill really comes down to two things — we can either pay now or put our citizens at risk,” said Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson. “This allows us to keep our people safe, and it allows us to recruit a higher caliber of event to our state.”

Glendale officials say threats such as last year’s Boston Marathon bombings have increased costs of security at major events. The bill applies to major events that have at least 14,000 attendees, are broadcast on live TV and where the host city must also be selected through a competitive process by a selection organization or committee. That aims the bill squarely at the Super Bowl and expires after that event.

But proponents are also setting the stage for a larger effort to help costs for any major event. They argued that because Arizona itself benefits from major sporting events, the state as a whole should help pay for security. They also said other Phoenix-area cities and state tax coffers benefit from the added tourism without sharing the costs.

But Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said the millions of dollars in profits made by professional football should be enough to foot the bill.

“The NFL has deep pockets, and I don’t see why they can’t handle these costs,” Steele said.

The bill passed on a 33-25 vote and now heads to the Senate for action.

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