The SunDome is getting torn down for that paragon of modern American culture, a shopping center.
When it opened 33 years ago, the Sundome in Sun City West was the largest single-story performing-arts center in the country.
It cost $8.6 million to build and was designed primarily as a concert hall with 7,169 seats.
The venue opened in September 1980 and was designed by architects for the Del E. Webb Development Co. as a marketing tool to sell homes in Sun City West.
It’s being demolished after decades of financial losses and repeated attempts to make it a viable performance space.
What makes this tale different from every other Arizona real estate deal gone bad is ASU’s involvement. You’d think that a university that prides itself for having a top-notch business school would avoid things like this.
The venue could handle individual performers such as Tony Bennett or Henry Mancini, but lacked a backstage area big enough for the sets of a major production, such as “Phantom of the Opera” or “Miss Saigon.”
ASU officials grappled with those same problems in 1984, when the Webb company deeded the Sundome to the university.
The center immediately started draining ASU’s public-events budget. Between the cost of booking acts, property taxes and electricity bills, the university had a Sundome-related deficit of $273,000 within two years. This piled up, despite a $200,000 annual payment that Del E. Webb made through 1988, just to cover losses.
In 1995, ASU asked the Sundome’s affiliated association to try to raise $5 million for renovations, only to discover that anywhere from $14 million to $20 million would be needed to make the venue profitable.
The university tried to put it on the market over the years but could not find any suitable buyers. One bidder in 2004 offered $50,000. A recent appraisal had put the value of the land alone at more than $7 million.
By 2005, the Sundome Center for the Performing Arts was a white elephant and was sold by Arizona State University to Maricopa County for just $10.
The county gave the Sundome back to ASU in 2007 and last year, a developer bought the 16-acre site for $2 million.
The land was worth $7 million, but somehow, the geniuses at Arizona State ended up giving the SunDome back to the county and let them sell it for $2 million. Good thing these guys don’t teach people accounting, finance or public policy, or else we’d really be in trouble!
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June 18th, 2013 by exurbankevin