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TEMPE, AZ-In a twist of irony, the state Attorney General has rejected a legal challenge from opponents of the $375-million Arizona Cardinals stadium on the same day that ground was to break. The project has been in a holding pattern for a month while the AG’s office weighed the case.

But not all obstacles have been cleared with the decision by Attorney General Janet Napolitano. Opponents claimed the 72,000-sf project posed air safety problems and argued that backers skirted the law by not including the Tempe site in those made public prior to the November 2000 vote for the new stadium.

“So long as there was some sites available prior to the election…presumably so the voters would know that should they approve the referendum there would be some place for the contemplated stadium to go…the law is satisfied,” Napolitano said in her ruling.

Also Thursday, the FAA raised the minimum landing altitude by 240 feet more than originally planned for the east of Sky Harbor International Airport. The decision came after the FAA discovered two office buildings east of the runway were higher than the proposed minimums.

The 226-foot high stadium design was faulted by the FAA for exceeding the minimum height requirement for buildings positioned in the airport’s flight path. The airport is situated about two miles west of the football stadium.

The Arizona Sports Authority, the stadium’s owner and operator, and City of Tempe responded by buying adjacent land where an apartment project was under way and relocating the stadium’s proposed positioning so that it would fall outside the direct flight path.

For now, the proponents can move forward with the project. “We know that the FAA would have to revisit the issue and that once the minimums were established, there would not be a problem with the stadium in its new location,” says Ted Ferris, sports authority president.

The FAA has scheduled another plan review for Oct. 7 and will issue a report in the same month. The groundbreaking, say proponents, will take place after the FAA report comes out. Still looming is a threat by the City of Phoenix, which owns Sky Harbor Airport, to sue if safety concerns aren’t resolved.

The stadium is to be up and running in time for the start of the 2004 football season. It is planned for the southeast corner of Priest Drive and Washington Street. The project is expected to spawn millions of dollars more in additional development in the way of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops.

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