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Baseball Fantasy: Free Suite During Spring Training

Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2012

Spring officially begins today, but spring fever began early for some cities that own ballparks. So while much discussion is focused on how free Superbowl tickets are distributed, an equally important question can be asked about baseball: Who is entitled to free access to ballpark suites?

In Arizona cities like Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe, there is no policy regarding use of the taxpayer-paid suites. The cities of Goodyear and Glendale are the only two of eight cities with a formal policy regarding the use of the suites, used for watching spring training of major league baseball teams.

Economic development is the reason some cities cite as the reason to invite business owners to use the suites. Scottsdale’s economic developer says box or suite seating rank “in the top 5 tools that a city could use to attract businesses.”

This one-on-one with elected officials can leave the impression that city business is being discussed outside the appropriate public forums. According to Maria Laughner, manager of Peoria’s business and real estate development, having guests allows “for a relaxed and neutral environment in which to meet and talk about projects.”

A lack of reporting on the use of the suites creates a disturbing lack of transparency. And while Glendale documents the economic development benefits by disclosing those who attend the ball games, they keep those records for only one year.

In addition to elected officials and business leaders, churches and non-profit organizations also benefit from free tickets. But with no guidelines for who does or doesn’t get prime seats, it will continue to look like a “perk.”

Tags: Arizona, transparency

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