Project Description

Case Study: Arizona Stadium Initiative

The Problem

Public funding for stadiums is a tough sell, especially in an anti-tax state such as Arizona. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that the Arizona Cardinals, the state’s NFL franchise, whose record was 3-13 in 2000, did not enjoy a high degree of public support. Indeed, voters had soundly rejected an earlier proposal to raise the sales tax to finance a new stadium. In the aftermath of that defeat, Arizona Governor Jane Hull created a special “Plan B Task Force” comprised of business and civic leaders to study whether building a new stadium was in the state’s best interests.

After months of study, the Task Force concluded that the economic value to the county and state of a new stadium was considerable. It recommended a funding mechanism that involved a combination of private funds and public monies paid largely by out-of-state visitors who rent hotel rooms and cars. In part due to popular advertising like the video above (produced by S&H), Proposition 302 stunned the experts by passing with 52% of the vote.

The proposal was referred to the Arizona Legislature before it faced the voters. The stadium was so controversial that the bill to create Proposition 302 passed by only a single vote in the Arizona House of Representatives.

A public opinion survey taken in February, 2000 showed that voters opposed construction of a new stadium by a margin of 65%-29%. There was never any polling that showed a majority of support for the stadium prior to election day.

The paid media created by Smith & Harroff emphasized the fact that Prop. 302 involved much more than a football stadium. If passed, much of the public funding would go toward tourism promotion, youth and amateur sports and renovation of Cactus League baseball facilities. The stadium could also accommodate major concerts, trade shows and conventions. The advertising also stressed the fact that the funding burden would not fall on the average citizen of Maricopa County.

The Results

On November 7, 2000, Proposition 302 stunned the experts by capturing 52% of the vote. As a result, a $350 million multi-purpose stadium was constructed in Glendale, Arizona. It opened for the start of the 2006 NFL season and hosted the 2008 Super Bowl. Business Week named it one of the ten most impressive sports structures in the world.

Smith & Harroff won the coveted GOLD SABRE Award (Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation) for its work on Prop. 302 in the category Political Campaigns and Ballot Initiatives.