MARICOPA — In most cities, the annual State of the City address by the mayor can be a mundane, even boring event. In Maricopa, however, it’s become something to behold in recent years.

Known for being one to make a big entrance, Mayor Christian Price outdoes himself every year by putting on an even bigger spectacle, and 2020 was no different. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the city was determined to host a safe event while also living up to the usual entertainment standards.

This year’s theme was “Maricopa is Looking Up!” and was centered on the Disney movie “Up.” Guests were greeted by a deluge of color as they entered Copper Sky Regional Park on Wednesday night. Clusters of balloons surrounded the space while three large hot-air balloons dotted the background, lighting the night sky with their fiery glow.

Those in attendance were given magnetic bottle caps to attach to their shirts, which had the city logo on them and were similar to the famous “grape soda” pins from the movie. Price, in keeping with his promise to wow attendees, floated in on one of the three tethered hot-air balloons right on cue and made his way to the stage, even clad in the appropriate aviator costume.

As he arrived, he held up his own button and told attendees they were now members of the Maricopa Adventure Club. One little boy in the crowd excitedly yelled out, “That’s just like what I have!”

Price began his speech addressing the hardships of this year, especially due to COVID-19.

“Despite all the craziness that we have going on in our lives, what we’ve been through this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about this little phrase. It says, ‘When life gets hard, remind yourself that diamonds are made under pressure.’ And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing here in Maricopa this year, making diamonds,” Price said.

On the line of hardships, Price tackled some of the issues and setbacks the year 2020 had brought. Among those were ongoing problems along State Route 347, such as the city’s attempt to get “City of” added to Maricopa signage, which Price said had failed. However, there will now be several smaller signs added that do include the phrase “City of Maricopa” in an attempt to distinguish themselves as a city.

Also an ongoing discussion is the addition of a “Welcome to Maricopa” sign to the entry point to the city, something that has long been requested but has been difficult due to the many landowners in the area. Talks for the sign began between both landowners and the neighboring Gila River Indian Community, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Instead, Price said the city has opted for a smaller, “but very attractive” monument to be erected.

A short intervening video boasted Maricopa’s successes, including being the 15th fastest growing city in the nation, in a 1940s transatlantic accent fitting to the “Up” theme.

Price then moved into showcasing some of the city’s accomplishments in spite of the pandemic, starting with an improved bond rating — something relatively rare in such a whirlwind year. He also highlighted the lowering of primary and secondary tax rates.

With the construction of the SR 347 overpass completed, Price also said work has begun in the Heritage District to help create the “lovely downtown” the city is envisioning.

“Recently, with permission of the property owners and grant funding, we have been doing wide-scale cleanups of dilapidated properties in this district. We’ve also been repaving new and improved streets … These allow for things like a new Main Street,” Price said. “We’ve also added sidewalks, new landscaping and lots of new enhancements.”

Much of the district has also successfully been re-evaluated and removed from the flood district.

On the line of infrastructure, attendees actually cheered when Price mentioned the completion of the Honeycutt and White and Parker intersection and the paving of Bowlin Road to alleviate traffic in the eastern communities, and more is on the way, according to the mayor.

Price mentioned the city is in talks for two more overpasses within city limits as well as expanding the court buildings and accompanying administrative offices. He also hopes to continue the expansion of the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to provide a new route to Interstate 10 and said widening of the first segment is already complete.

The mayor also pointed to the current road painting efforts by the city to increase bike lanes throughout the city. Thirteen home builders are currently operational in the city, and the mayor touted their recent diversifying of housing.

“We are seeing for the very first time in Maricopa’s modern history a diversification of the housing stock of what we call circle-of-life housing,” Price said. “That includes all of the following: single-family homes, larger and custom lot homes, multifamily homes, smaller homes like condominiums, new concept homes, structures that are owned by different people … and we’re even about to see our very first assisted-living facility.”

Continuing, Price listed several new projects that had moved to Maricopa, quoting the developer for La Quinta Inn and Suites.

“We located La Quinta Inn and Suites in the city of Maricopa because of the pro-economic development climate, and the leadership did what they said they would do at every point of the project. We look forward to being a part of this community,” the quote said.

Price said the hotelier is now considering putting a second hotel in town, with three competitors also throwing their hats in the ring. An echo of last year’s State of the City theme, “if you build it, they will come,” seemed fitting.

He rounded out his speech by congratulating the community members of Maricopa.

“Challenges aside, truly amazing things are happening all around us. You, the citizens, have a front row seat to history, as you witness the incredible development of our magnificent city from the ground up. It’s happening because of your patience and your willingness to grow and to learn,” Price said. “All of these accolades I shared with you tonight, are yours.”

As attendees departed the event, they were given a “My Maricopa Adventure Book” that contained photos of historic Maricopa decades ago, a tiny dot in the desert, compared with the bustling city it is today.

The last few pages of the book were blank, seemingly awaiting the next decades of growth for the city.

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.

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