Glendale and the Tohono O’odham Nation

Poor Glendale, AZ. They have the arena – home to the Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise and a hugely popular concert venue. They have University of Phoenix stadium – home to the NFL franchise Arizona Cardinals and another hugely popular indoor/outdoor venue. They have shopping, they have hotels, they have spring training ballparks. All of this in a very small “entertainment district” that is funnelling huge amounts of money into the city coffers.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They forgot about the Tohono O’odham Nation. They forgot about the 134 acres that butts up against this “entertainment district” that the Nation purchased years ago – a long time before this “entertainment district” became an idea in some Glendale City Councilman’s head.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They forgot about the 1986 federal law that allows the Tohono O’odham Nation to purchase replacement land in unincorporated areas and apply to have it designated as a reservation after the federal government’s Painted Rock Dam on the Gila River caused flooding in the Tohono O’odham’s Gila River community, rendering nearly 10,000 acres unusable. The purchase was made in 2003, when the area was unincorporated and not in the city of Glendale’s city limits. Obviously this has changed as this “entertainment district” became a reality and Glendale annexed the surrounding area.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They were hoping that 134 acres would turn into something like a commerce center, which given taxes and what-not, would fill the city’s treasury with about $40 million over 20 years.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They forgot that Native American Nations tend to want big bucks in their own wallets, and measly little commerce centers just don’t get a huge bang for the buck – especially on 134 acres. They forgot that Native American Nations can be just as shrewd businessmen as themselves.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They are facing the very real prospect of the 134 acres becoming tribal land and then having a very large Las Vegas-style resort and casino placed squarely on it. And there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it because it’s a Federal jurisdiction, not the City’s.

Poor Glendale, AZ. They’re facing a round-the-clock operation that could grab visitors that would otherwise spend at existing locations within the “entertainment district” and compete with nearby facilities being planned, AND would net them absolutely ZERO in tax revenue. But if they place nice with the Nation, the Nation could dole them out up to 12 percent of the revenue, IF IT CHOOSES TO.

Poor Glendale, AZ.

Hooray for the Tohono O’odham Nation! Good for you. I hope your resort and casino comes to fruition, and I hope you do well. I will come and visit it when it opens, because I believe you made a smart business decision. And if poor, poor Glendale tries to become a roadblock to your resort and casino, then give your 12% to another nearby community, like Buckeye or Goodyear Peoria or Tolleson. Glendale had ample – six years! – time to discuss what you planned to do with those 134 acres. Tough cookies, Glendale. You’d been winning all sorts of battles for the last couple of years, landing the hockey arena, the football stadium, and spring training. Now you lose.

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