A friend of mine in

by francine Hardaway on March 21, 2006

A friend of mine in Pakistan sent me an ad for Emirates Airlines this morning. I thought I would share the copy with you, because I thought it was 1)awfully clever, and 2) another example of how commerce goes on while politics blusters. The headline of the ad says,”Every been outsmarted by the Jews?”
The body copy: “Even though we are spending over 100 million pounds to support a third-rate North London football club, they neglected to mention to us that they were signing the Israel Tourism Board as a new sponsor.

Since we are stuck advertising next to the Israelis for the forseeable future, we will probably start flying to Jerusalem, so the Jews who run the Arsenal FC can fly back to the Holy Land in style and comfort.
Shalom. Keep discovering.” Emirates Airlines

I love this ad. It tells how you can take a situation everyone else might think is volatile and defuse it with humor, making money along the way. This airline is way ahead of the United States in how to deal with difficult geopolitical situations.

In the meantime, in Glendale, Arizona, they have just built a football stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, a team that almost never wins. This is in a state known as 50th in education spending and quality, but at the top of the heap for car theft, meth addiction, identity theft, illegal immigration, and high school drop outs. It’s difficult to believe we don’t have better things to do with our money.

Don�t worry, however. Even if the Cards don�t win, the stadium itself has already won a prize: it received an award this week from BusinessWeek as one of the world’s ten best stadiums –the only North American stadium in that rarified class. And it has already been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Engineering” show, even though it doesn’t even open until this summer.

Among the mind-boggling features of the stadium is a retractable grass field, also the first in North America. The field lives outside the stadium for about 340 days a year, where it can get the right sunlight and water for its optimum growth. The day before each Cardinals’ game, the entire field is rolled inside, under the retractable roof. All this effort is to protect the spectators from the 100+ degree temperatures that characterize the football season in Arizona. It begs the question of whether there SHOULD be a football season in Arizona, because we have the technological fix for both the grass and the people.

The 100,000 square foot roof was assembled inside the stadium’s footprint, and raised hydraulically over a two-day period. It was the heaviest roof lift in North America, 11 million pounds. I guess Arizona thought North America was falling behind in the global stadium competition, and the state had to jump in to help out. While India is known for software, we can be known for rolling grass.

The entire construction period has been marked by this kind of pride, excitement and public relations activities. The air conditioning is bigger and better than ever. The seats are some new design. Everything’s first rate. Never mind that the team sucks. Never mind that the owner is a less than admirable civic leader. He has built a monument to himself and his team, and we have helped him. And all the cities in our Valley fought for the opportunity to host this ingrate.

I’m just stunned by this stadium stuff. This project represents an “investment” of $355 million, only $109m of which is paid for by the Cardinals. The remainder, of course, is paid by us, through a complex series of financial finaglings not worth understanding.

But if I remember correctly, the Arizona education budget was short last year by about $358 million to implement all the No Child Left Behind mandates. (Gee, what if we had chosen another way to use that $355 mill?)

You know the answer. Arizona would have lost its chance to host the Super Bowl, which brings millions in tourism dollars into the community. Well, maybe not $355 million, but perhaps $50 million. And Phoenix would have lost 3500 �high-paying� construction jobs over the past three years � jobs that will now vanish as quickly as they came.

I am usually an ardent supporter of economic development activities, and of investments in the community’s future. I was proud of the citizens of Phoenix last week, voting almost a billion in bonds to support a new downtown campus of ASU, an expansion of the medical school, and several other philanthropic causes. Our own FastTrac program, which generates and retains jobs by helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, is funded by CDBG grants.

But a $355 million football stadium for a dozen games a year? That’s an investment? It’s not even a good gamble. And how does it make us look to clever competitors like Emirates Airlines?

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