A few years ago, Ikea was all set to open a big operation near State Farm Stadium. That fizzled out, leaving Glendale leaders red-faced.
But isn’t Kevin Phelps glad Ikea tapped out now?
“Absolutely,” said Phelps, Glendale’s city manager. “Sometimes, it’s really good you don’t get what you want—because there’s something better out there for you.”
Recently, Nike backed out of a proposed deal for a huge manufacturing and distribution facility in Goodyear. While the West Valley waits to see if “something better” takes Nike’s place, Phelps and Glendale elected officials are crowing about what took Ikea’s planned location.
Glendale City Council recently approved a development agreement for a massive project at Cardinals Way and the Loop 101: Crystal Lagoons Island Resort.
Often stoic, the Glendale City Council was giddy in green-lighting the project.
“Our citizens are going to love this,” gushed Councilman Jamie Aldama.
Others agreed with him when he said, “I don’t have to fly to Hawaii anymore.”
Councilwoman Joyce Clark said she’s been biting her lips for the last year: “Mr. Phelps told me about this project almost a year ago, I’ve spent a year nagging him, ‘When can we announce it?’”
While the anchor of the project is a 10-acre lagoon and water park, it will be surrounded by an amusement park, offices, restaurants, shops and a hotel.
“We lose a project—and then we get the thing that’s a perfect fit for our growing sports and entertainment district,” Phelps said.
While Crystal Lagoons projects 1,800 permanent employees, hundreds more construction workers will be hired after groundbreaking later this year, Phelps said. He said the project will be completed by October 2022—in time for the following Super Bowl.
“I don’t see any problem in delivering this by the fall of 2022,” Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff said.
Traffic, noise, crime?
Other Glendale projects—of far smaller magnitude—often bring out neighbors voicing concerns: Will this bring traffic, noise and crime to the neighborhood?
Phelps said none of those will be a problem with the lagoon development.
“We have lots of roadways to get people in and out. It’s less than a quarter mile from the 101,” Phelps said. “And, unlike sporting events that have a two-hour window (of heavy traffic), people coming and going all day long, we believe we are able to manage the traffic impact.
“As for noise, it’s right along the freeway, and there are noise ordinances the developer has to adhere to.”
Though projections are for thousands to visit the lagoon on a daily basis, Phelps vowed they will be law abiding.
“It’s a ticket item, so they have to pay a fee. They’ll have security on site to help make sure people are safe,” Phelps said.
“We don’t expect any associated criminal activity of note will come about. It’s really families that will go to this. ... It’s a theme park. They typically don’t have crime.”
The size and scope of the project makes it a regional draw that could help its neighboring cities.
“I think it is wonderful,” Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said. “It is terrific that Glendale will have this attraction in their city and all of the West Valley cities will benefit from the increased tourism that it will bring to the entire region.”
With 1,800 jobs, the project should mean plenty of work for those who live in neighboring Peoria, as well as a long-lasting economic boost.
“Projects of this magnitude always bring tremendous tourism value to the region,” Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said. “I’m excited to see this project coming to Glendale and look forward to its development.”
While some critics will point to a theme park in Williams and a Casa Grande mega project that never happened after much publicity, Phelps said he has no doubt this project will make the end zone.
“We have a lot of confidence this project’s going to happen,” Phelps said.
To paraphrase an old commercial pitch: But wait, there’s more.
“The interesting part is probably the two best and most spectacular parts (about the project) we were unable to talk about,” Phelps said.
“We’re looking in October to make a couple major announcements. The north end, the anchor hotel, and the south end, the family entertainment center—when we announce what those are and the companies behind them, it will truly give this project amenities you will not find anywhere else in the United States.”
After more than a year and “north of 100 meetings with the developer,” Phelps said he is convinced the money will line up to back this project.
“They believe they have all the necessary financing in place to do the construction,” Phelps said.
Even with up to $1 million credit for permit fees, inspection fees and other building incentives, the developer will need a deep investment team.
According to Phelps, the water park project will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
On the flip side, Phelps said sales tax generated by the park, hotel, shops and restaurants will generate $24 million per year for Glendale.
But, in his view, you can’t put a price tag on Crystal Lagoons Island Resort, which he insists will change the view of Glendale.
“Twenty years ago, our brand was as a sleepy, tired community. We’re building a product that nobody else in the Valley—or the Southwest region—is going to replicate,” Phelps said.
“This is really going to solidify Glendale as the center of the West Valley.”