Marana is moving its Fourth of July celebration from Ora Mae Harn Park to the Arizona Pavilions shopping center, saving up to one-third of the cost and hoping to both bolster and rely upon resident businesses.

One business, yet to be publicly identified, has agreed to sponsor the fireworks for $10,000, parks and recreation director Tom Ellis told the Marana Town Council on April 28.

With that gift, and reduced related expenses at the new location, the town's Star-Spangled Event might cost about $67,000 this year, compared to the approximately $100,000 expense in north Marana, Ellis said.

The town council agreed to the relocation, with one dissent. Last week's discussion came on the heels of cost-cutting conversations for fiscal 2010, and Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler voted against the Fourth of July expenditure.

"The thought of laying off one person, then spending $50,000" for a celebration bothers Ziegler. "I know I'm in the minority. This is a wonderful idea, but it's not proven yet. The timing couldn't be worse."

"I saw this proposal, and I saw a win-win," Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said. "It's an opportunity to engage the business community and generate revenue."

"This could be the single biggest revenue-generator for our business community that we've ever had," Councilman Russell Clanagan said. "What we recoup in sales tax, and good, positive public relations, far exceeds the expense."

The Fourth of July celebration is "one of the largest, costliest events" Marana puts on, Ellis said. Fireworks, construction of a parking lot, lights, stage, sound system, entertainment and personnel costs add to the bill in north Marana. Last year, as an example, Marana spent $17,000 on traffic control, and $5,500 on the parking lot to accommodate a crowd of some 8,000 people.

"Staff is optimistic we can reduce expenses by at least one-third and still have a quality event," Ellis said.

Special events expenditures are a part of Marana's 2010 budget consideration. "We did take a hard look" at the holiday tree lighting and Founders Day celebrations, Ellis said. "We're able to cut costs, and have a quality event."

A town advisory commission believes the Star-Spangled Event is "an important part of Marana tradition," and should continue, Ellis said. "It is viewed as a bright spot in a very difficult time."

Ellis and others approached Arizona Pavilions merchants and the chamber of commerce, seeking buy-in. Business owners and managers were "very excited with the idea." The town is asking the business community to "entertain" and "engage" the Fourth of July crowd.

"In three to four years, we believe it'll be the business owners who are driving" the celebration, Ellis said.

In comparison with Ora Mae Harn Park, the Arizona Pavilions has "more points of ingress and egress," Ellis said, with signal lights, signage and roads. "And we won't have to build a parking lot," he said. Further, the location would provide "so many viewpoints, you don't have to travel to Arizona Pavilions to actually see" the show, Ellis said.

"We need to have a major event in the southern end of town," Marana Mayor Ed Honea said. A resulting surge in sales taxes is "not going to balance the budget, but it'll help. This could be something really special."

Marana is behind in its Fourth of July planning process, Ellis acknowledged. Typically, it has a 20-week window to plan the celebration. The Fourth of July is eight weeks away.

"Its success will depend on a barrage of public information," Ellis said.

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