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Ariz. utility weighs $1M donation for Super Bowl

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PHOENIX (AP) — In a potential move that is raising some eyebrows, an Arizona utility is deciding whether to make a $1 million donation to a committee hosting the 2015 Super Bowl to Glendale, a newspaper said Wednesday.

The proposed donation by the Salt River Project would consist of $225,000 cash, $575,000 in services and $200,000 in electricity for the NFL's championship game, The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/VyBYaI) reported.

The game is scheduled to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium.

An SRP executive said a donation by the nonprofit municipal utility would support a community project that provides exposure for the region and benefits its customers.

"It is one of the most highly watched events during the course of the year, and Arizona shows very well when it hosts the Super Bowl," said Peter Hayes, an associate general manager and chief public affairs executive.

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, said SRP should only spend ratepayer money for business purposes, not give it to the financially successful NFL.

"It is incredible to me. They have a pretty unlimited view of what they can waste ratepayer money on," said Hogan, a former state utility regulator.

SRP board members plan to review the proposal Thursday. Some said they plan to ask about benefits for the utility and its customers.

"We certainly are not going to overpay for this stuff. If we don't get a good return on our dollar, I don't care for it," said board member William Arnett.

SRP's board last September approved a rate increase that will raise the typical homeowner's bill by $6.17, or nearly 4 percent.

SRP's president, David Rousseau, is chairman of the Super Bowl host committee, which is raising about $25 million from local businesses to help the NFL produce the game.

Hayes said the Super Bowl funding request did not come from Rousseau.

"When David got tapped (to be chairman), we anticipated we would continue our support of the Super Bowl because of the benefits it brings to the community," Hayes said.

For the Super Bowl played in Glendale in 2008, SRP provided about $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions as well as spending $200,000 to $300,000 to upgrade some of the utility infrastructure needed for the game, though that work would have been conducted eventually, Hayes said.

Hayes said the money to be given to the Super Bowl will not reduce the utility's charitable giving this year.

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