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Arizona Film Studios to Break Ground Following Tax Incentive (EXCLUSIVE)

Two Arizona studio projects are preparing to break ground next year, now that the state has approved a $125 million incentive for film and TV production.Acacia Filmed Entertainment unveiled its plans Monday to build 14 soundstages on a 70-acre site in the Scottsdale area. The other project, Desert Studios Complex, is slated to be built in Buckeye, ...

Two Arizona studio projects are preparing to break ground next year, now that the state has approved a $125 million incentive for film and TV production.

Acacia Filmed Entertainment unveiled its plans Monday to build 14 soundstages on a 70-acre site in the Scottsdale area. The other project, Desert Studios Complex, is slated to be built in Buckeye, in the Southwest Valley.

Both projects were intimately involved in designing and lobbying for the state’s new tax credit, which is targeted to incentivize construction of new soundstage facilities.

“We basically helped craft this bill so we could help protect the ability to finance the studio,” said Matthew George, president of Acacia Filmed Entertainment. “It’s a little different than other rebates. This is centered around the ability to build those studios.”

The new credit will launch in 2023 with a cap of $75 million, ramping up to $125 million in 2025. In order to qualify, productions must either film on a soundstage of at least 10,000 square feet, or — if the production relies on location shoots — do all post-production at a “qualified production facility” in the state.

But the state has relatively little in the way of filming infrastructure.

“This bill is designed to attract people to build those facilities,” said Randy Murray, a board member of the Arizona Film and Digital Media Coalition.

Acacia plans to break ground next year, with construction expected to take about 18 months. The project will be built in phases, with the first phase including seven soundstages. A subsequent phase will add more soundstages, plus post-production facilities. The project is expected to cost at least $200 million, George said, and will be developed in partnership with the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana.

George is also president of Castle Rock Entertainment, the company founded and run by Rob Reiner.

He said that once the project is open for business, it will be an attractive place to film — only a 70-minute flight from Los Angeles, and with the amenities of Scottsdale nearby.

“Crew will move here to make movies,” he predicted. “It’s a huge win for Arizona.”

The Desert Studios Complex expects to break ground in the first quarter of 2023, said Nick Simonetta, the project’s lobbyist. The project will cost “multiple hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. The first phase will include 16 soundstages, with the potential to expand to as many as 64 soundstages in later phases. The project is also expected to include post-production facilities.

The Arizona tax incentive will offer a refundable credit worth 15-20% of a project’s costs, depending on the size of the investment. It also includes a 2.5% bonus for projects that either shoot at a “qualified production facility” or do all pre- and post-production at such a facility. An additional 2.5% bonus applies to projects that sign a long-term lease with such a facility.

The statute defines a “qualified” facility as one that is built for the film industry, meets industry standards and has at least 10,000 square feet.

Now that the credit has been approved, it’s possible that additional facilities may also seek to compete for filming business.

Murray operates First Studio — a combined office building, art gallery and production space — built in a former TV studio in downtown Phoenix. He said it would take some work to get in a position to compete for film shoots.

“We’re not geared up,” Murray said. “We’ve been left behind by the industry. It’s going to take time to gear up to be at the level we need to be at.”

One question is how restrictive the rules will be for post-production, given that much post-production work can be done remotely.

The Arizona Commerce Authority, a public-private partnership that is tasked with attracting businesses to the state, will be responsible for writing the regulations.

“We’re in the middle of writing the rules with the ACA,” George said. “We don’t want them to be too restrictive, but we also want to protect the concept of bringing studios to the state of Arizona.”

5 New Restaurants And Bars Now Open In Downtown Phoenix

In Downtown Phoenix, restaurants are expanding and old spaces are getting new life.Well on the way to becoming a foodie playground, a restaurant is opening or coming soon on every Downtown corner.From buffalo wings made with “All The Luv,” to a home run-inspired celebrity kitchen – here are five restaurants and bars that have recently opened in Downtown Phoenix.Located on the ground floor of the historic Hilton Garden Inn, this new restaurant comes from the minds of Eddie Chow and Akira Nakasu of Jin Ho...

In Downtown Phoenix, restaurants are expanding and old spaces are getting new life.

Well on the way to becoming a foodie playground, a restaurant is opening or coming soon on every Downtown corner.

From buffalo wings made with “All The Luv,” to a home run-inspired celebrity kitchen – here are five restaurants and bars that have recently opened in Downtown Phoenix.

Located on the ground floor of the historic Hilton Garden Inn, this new restaurant comes from the minds of Eddie Chow and Akira Nakasu of Jin Hospitality, who also own Nanaya Japanese Kitchen in Arcadia. An izakaya is the Japanese version of a tavern. Motomoto offers tapas-style snacks, sushi, house-made ramen, sake and cocktails.

Details: Monday-Thursday: 4-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday: 4-10:30 p.m.; Sunday: 4-9 p.m. (480) 868-7981. motomotocentral.com.

This two-story entertainment destination is located adjacent to Chase Field and is also home of the new Caesars Sportsbook, the largest retail sportsbook to open in partnership with a major sports stadium.

The kitchen features a menu full of celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s favorites including Trash Can Nachos and the award-winning Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheeseburger. The restaurant was designed in partnership with Fieri and is led locally by Executive Chef Kayla Laasko.

Details: Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for food service and until 1 a.m. both nights for beverage service. The venue will also be open during D-backs off days and have expanded hours during football season. (602) 462-3800.

Located next to Downtown favorite, Kettle Black, The Desmond serves Neapolitan style woodfired pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. All pizzas are available with gluten-free cauliflower crust and vegan cheese.

Details: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (602) 466-1444. thedesmondaz.com.

This locally owned and family operated restaurant first opened its doors in Chandler in 2012. Now it’s making its debut in Downtown’s historic Roosevelt Row Arts District. Known for their fresh — never frozen — chicken wings and more than 20 sauces, ATL stands for “All the Luv” which they put in every item on the menu from wings, sandwiches to Kool-Aid.

Details: Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Thursday & Friday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Saturday 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. and Sunday 12- 6 p.m. (602) 283-4210. atlwings.com.

There’s a story behind Downtown’s newest cocktail lounge, ask about the peacock in the center of the restaurant to learn more. The Rose Garden has an elegant atmosphere perfect for a date night. The new theme bar comes from Josh and Chiara Katz and Maurice Murillo, the minds behind Sip Coffee & Beer and 36 Below cocktail lounge.

Details: 3 p.m. – 12 a.m. daily. therosegardenaz.com

Little League All-Stars: Three Southern Arizona Teams to play for State Championships

STATE CHAMPIONS: WEST REGION ASSIGNMENTSSunnyside 50/70 Baseball: Nogales Host Team (Nogales: July 22-28)Nogales Juniors Baseball (Bend, Oregon: Aug. 3-11)Nogales Seniors Baseball (Oakland: July 20-27)Thornydale Juniors Softball: Marana Host Team (Arthur Pack: July 22-28)WEDNESDAY, JULY 20STATE 8-10 BASEBALL: MESA (D-7)Nogales 17, Arcadia 4 (Elimination)Nogales advances to the championship round against Four Peaks on Thursday at 7 p.m. It must beat Four Peaks to force a deciding game on Friday for...

STATE CHAMPIONS: WEST REGION ASSIGNMENTS

Sunnyside 50/70 Baseball: Nogales Host Team (Nogales: July 22-28)Nogales Juniors Baseball (Bend, Oregon: Aug. 3-11)Nogales Seniors Baseball (Oakland: July 20-27)Thornydale Juniors Softball: Marana Host Team (Arthur Pack: July 22-28)

WEDNESDAY, JULY 20

STATE 8-10 BASEBALL: MESA (D-7)Nogales 17, Arcadia 4 (Elimination)

Nogales advances to the championship round against Four Peaks on Thursday at 7 p.m. It must beat Four Peaks to force a deciding game on Friday for the title.

Top Nogales performers:

STATE 9-11 BASEBALL: PHOENIX (D-3)Rincon 3, Cactus Foothills 2 (7)Gilbert 7, Canyon View 3 (Elimination)

Rincon (4-0 in the tournament) advances to the championship round out of the winner’s bracket and will play Gilbert American or Cactus Foothills on Friday at 7 p.m. for the title. Rincon needs a win for the title. Their opponent will need two wins.

Rincon top performers:

STATE LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: LITCHFIELD (D-2)Peoria Sidewinder 20, Douglas 4Sunnyside 14, Marana 1 (Elimination)

Sunnyside advances to the elimination-bracket semifinal against High Desert on Thursday (7 p.m.) and the winner of that game plays Douglas on Friday (7 p.m.) in the elimination-bracket final. Peoria Sidewinder awaits the winner of the elimination bracket in the championship round that starts Saturday (5:30 p.m.).

Sunnyside has won eight straight elimination games dating to its five-game run in the District 12 tournament.

Top Sunnyside performers against Marana:

Top Marana performer:

50/70 WEST REGION: NOGALES (D-8)Washington 12, Nogales 6

Nogales, the host team of the 50/70 West Regional, lost its opening game of the tournament to Washington. Nogales next plays Alaska in pool play Friday at 5 p.m. Sunnyside, the Arizona state champions, play Northern California on Thursday at 8 p.m.

STATE SOFTBALL 8-10: SIERRA VISTA (D-8)Willcox 2, Cave Creek 1 (7)Queen Creek 24, Thornydale 0 (Elimination)

Willcox advances to the championship round Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.

Hattie Macumber continued her pitching dominance striking out 19 batters while walking one and allowing three hits in seven innings in the extra-inning win over Cave Creek.

After Cave Creek took a 1-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning, Willcox won on Jayleen Aguirre’s two-run double in the bottom of the inning that scored Stephany Aguilar and Josey Benavides.

THURSDAY, JULY 21

STATE 8-10 BASEBALL: MESA (D-7)Nogales (Elimination) vs. Mesa Four Peaks, 7 p.m. (Championship)

STATE LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: LITCHFIELD (D-2)Sunnyside vs. High Desert, 7 p.m. (Elimination)

50/70 WEST REGION: NOGALES (D-8)Sunnyside vs. N. California, 8 p.m.

SENIOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: OAKLANDNogales vs. N. California, 4:30 p.m.

FRIDAY, JULY 22

STATE 9-11 BASEBALL: PHOENIX (D-3)Rincon vs. TBD, 7 p.m. (Championship)

STATE LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: LITCHFIELD (D-2)Douglas vs. TBD, 7 p.m. (Elimination)

50/70 WEST REGION: NOGALES (D-8)Nogales vs. Alaska, 5 p.m.Sunnyside vs. Washington, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY, JULY 23

50/70 WEST REGION: NOGALES (D-8)Sunnyside vs. Alaska, 10 a.m.Nogales vs. S. California, 1 p.m.

STATE SOFTBALL 8-10: SIERRA VISTA (D-8)Willcox vs. TBD, 6:00 p.m. (Championship)

JUNIOR SOFTBALL WEST REGION: ARTHUR PACK (D-5)Thornydale vs. Federal Way (WA), 8 a.m.Marana vs. La Grande (OR), 8 a.m.

SUNDAY, JULY 24

50/70 WEST REGION: NOGALES (D-8)Sunnyside vs. S. California, 10 a.m.

17 great summer salads in Metro Phoenix

Coming off the fourth of July, some of us may or may not have stuffed ourselves silly — the barbecue, sides, pies, repeat. If you’re like “some of us” (fine, it’s me) and now seek to satiate a lighter summer appetite, we have a solution: summer salads. But, the Valley doesn’t simply offer up any old salads. Whether you’re in the mood for savory, sweet, spicy or a special treat, these Metro Phoenix local eateries’ salads are here to please. Check out 17 summer salad stops you don’t want to...

Coming off the fourth of July, some of us may or may not have stuffed ourselves silly — the barbecue, sides, pies, repeat. If you’re like “some of us” (fine, it’s me) and now seek to satiate a lighter summer appetite, we have a solution: summer salads. But, the Valley doesn’t simply offer up any old salads. Whether you’re in the mood for savory, sweet, spicy or a special treat, these Metro Phoenix local eateries’ salads are here to please. Check out 17 summer salad stops you don’t want to miss (say that five times fast). And, be sure to check out our staff’s favorite picks.

READ ALSO: Ranking Arizona Top 10 lists for 2022

You simply can’t beet The Italian Daughter’s Black Fig and Beet Salad. This combo of sweet figs, beets and arugula, topped with creamy goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette is a simpatico pairing of sweet and savory ingredients to make your taste senses sing.

You’ll be more than glad you ordered this colorful collection of tastiness, aesthetically lined with rows of smoked salmon, couscous, arugula, pepitas, asiago cheese, currants, dried super sweet corn and marinated tomatoes, served with buttermilk herb dressing.

You’ll be in the oo-la-la salad lane when indulging in the Asparagus Niçoise at Zinqué. Mixed greens and asparagus topped

with tuna conserva, hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomatoes and olives are magnifique for your mouth!​​

Goodbye, hum-drum Caesar; hello Humble Bistro Caesar salad! This romaine chop with garlic breadcrumbs dressed in jalapeno Caesar dressing and topped with crispy Brussels sprout leaves offers a spicy twist on an all-time favorite dish.

This traditional salad combines romaine lettuce, corn, cucumber and tomato and is topped with crispy tortilla strips and cheese. Feeling like you want to mix it up with a little protein? Add carne asada or pollo asado (for a small extra fee) and you’ve got yourself an ensalada delicioso (delicious salad)!

What happens when you mix citrus goodness with some of summer’s other fine foodie offerings? You get The Montauk’s yummy Playa Salad with orange slices, avocado, red onion, pepitas and queso fresco over a bed of artisan greens, with coriander vinaigrette to finish.

Move over traditional Caesar, CRUjiente Tacos offers a Mexican twist you have to try! Atop a bed of romaine hearts sits spiced pepitas, cotija cheeses, escabeche, sourdough croutons and a roasted poblano dressing.

No, Quin-bla here! The Sauce has a saucy, glossy, gorgeous Quinoa ta-da salad full of golden beets, avocado, goat cheese, fuji apples and pistachios served with red wine vinaigrette.

Get your tastebuds ready for a sensational flavor ride with Santé’s Grilled Watermelon Salad tossed with Brussels sprouts, cucumber, cherry tomato, pickled Fresno chili, goat cheese, spiced pepitas and citrus mojo!

A little bit of this and a little bit of yum is what you’ll find when you order EVO’s arugula, spinach, radicchio, cucumber, grape tomatoes, orange, and manchego, served with watermelon vinaigrette.

It’s an homage to every elementary kid’s favorite subject: recess! And, you’ll find the Recess Salad at Recreo in the form of grilled chicken, strawberries, apple, candied pecans, feta, spring mix and bacon with a strawberry vinaigrette.

The Flora Salad’s parade of Italian-inspired ingredients will have you swooning! Enjoy a mix of heirloom tomatoes, Roman artichokes, roasted peppers, Sicilian olives, shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts, served with a balsamic vinaigrette.

The Sicilian Butcher’s Flora salad comes with heirloom tomatoes, Roman artichokes, roasted peppers, Sicilian olives, shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts, served with a balsamic vinaigrette.

You don’t have to be a resident of Arcadia — for which this delish dish was named — to thoroughly enjoy this salad’s flavor-packed punch. Complete with dates, black currants, pears and apples, topped with smoked almonds and served with blue cheese and a red wine vinaigrette, this salad will beckon you to Arcadia often!

No scrimpy on the shrimpy for this salad! It’s full of spicy fried shrimp, Napa romaine, carrots, jicama, red peppers, mandarin oranges and fried wontons with a sweet chili sesame vinaigrette.

You’ll want to immediately tip your fork into this bowl of crispy sesame chicken, spring mix, shredded carrot, radish, jicama, red bell pepper, pickled ginger, toasted almonds, mandarin oranges and fried wontons with sesame dressing.

This chop is topped with plenty of lovely, hearty, Italian goodies, including romaine, pepperoni, tomato, cucumber, artichoke, sweet peppers and mozzarella, served with an oregano vinaigrette.

When you’re in the mood for Mediterranean, this stir fry will fill your soul and belly with lentils, spinach, Tuscan kale, baby arugula, and caramelized onions, atop a freshly tossed salad with seasonal mixed greens, tomato, Persian cucumber, yellow and red bells, radish, red onion, mint and sumac. Finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon, red wine vinegar and EVOO.

AZ Big Media Staff Salad Winners

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Some of our staff members stuck our heads together to share our favorite salads with you:

Lynette Carrington, our fearless marketing and events specialist loves the Sauce’s Quinoa, Beet and Arugula Salad.

Crissy Souders, our multi-talented, multi-media marketing specialist, goes ga-ga for the Gladly’s Original Chopped Salad.

Maria Hansen, one of our outstanding account executives, favors the Firecracker Shrimp Salad at V’s Taproom.

Me, well, I can’t choose just one, but Sante’s Grilled Watermelon Salad sure is calling my name.

First Taste: New Downtown Phoenix Japanese Restaurant Motomoto Misses the Mark

When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).Downtown Phoenix's Hilton Garden Inn, a historic art deco skyscraper...

When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Downtown Phoenix's Hilton Garden Inn, a historic art deco skyscraper built in 1932, has a new tenant. Japanese restaurant Motomoto Sushi & Izakaya moved in on June 3.

Motomoto is a sibling to Nanaya Japanese Kitchen, an Arcadia area restaurant in the charming space behind Gaslight Square at 36th Street and Indian School Road. Both are owned by Eddie Chow and Akira Nakasu of Jin Hospitality. At Nanaya, the Chicken Miso Katsu Sando served on Japanese milk bread and the Tuna Lover Roll are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Expecting a similar quality, we went to Motomoto with high expectations.

Outside the new restaurant sits a simple patio with high-top tables and black iron chairs. A couple of diners chatted while they noshed on Asian fare and sipped on beer.

Inside, a host led the way to our table, passing a hexagon-shaped bar with black marbled tiles and a gold bar footrest.The space, which housed Nook Kitchen for four years before it closed in June 2020 due to the pandemic, looks very much like the hotel restaurant that it is.

Our half booth faced a glass-encased wine display separating the bar from a small dining area. In another room, the ceiling was covered with white and red wagasa, traditional Japanese umbrellas made of bamboo and paper. Purple lights illuminated the wagasa and a fake cherry blossom tree sat on one side of the space, creating the most festive area of the restaurant.

After we took our seats, cocktails were on the brain. They took a minute, since our server was also the bartender. But they arrived fresh and pretty, the Sumopolitan a more citrusy version of the classic cosmopolitan with sumo citrus infused vodka, hibiscus honey, Italicus, a rose petal liqueur, and lemon. The Tokai Margarita with tequila and spicy agave was well-balanced and not too sweet with a blistered shishito pepper garnish.

"Our menu is made to encourage sharing across the table in spirit of Japan's dining culture, where eating 'family-style' is standard," the menu read, and the advice was heeded. There are lots of options at the sushi and izakaya restaurant, from small plates to sushi and sashimi, and main plates of ramen and robatayaki skewers grilled over Japanese charcoal.

An izakaya is a Japanese bar where small plates are served to accompany alcoholic drinks. In Japan, people go in groups and share various plates among their party, yelling "sumimasen!" to summon the server amid a noisy dining room.

But this dining room was rather quiet and our server probably wouldn't appreciate the same sentiment, so we ordered the standard American way, working through the menu from small to heartier fare.

The Daikon Salad came first with curly endive lettuce and shaved daikon tossed in a sesame shoyu dressing placed atop charred okra. The whole thing was topped with bonito flakes, which gave a smoky flavor to the earthy dish. It was one of the highlights of the night, the crisp lettuce blending with the charred okra for a refreshing yet unique salad.

Looking a bit mummified, the Moto Tempura Set was next. A pile of shrimp, shitake mushrooms, kabocha squash, and lotus root seemed thrown onto the plate haphazardly aside tentsuyu, a salty and sweet tempura dipping sauce. The thick, doughy battered shrimp and veggies tasted better than they looked, though we wouldn't order the dish again. It wasn't crisp, airy, or delicate as tempura promises to be.

The Hamachi Sashimi was our favorite dish of the evening, perhaps the only one we'd return for. Yellowtail sashimi sat in a bright yuzu dressing with chili flakes and micro cilantro, at once spicy and invigorating. The sauce could be sipped on its own, and the himachi, topped with sliced Fresno chiles, was fresh.

At this point, our server came by to tell us that the kitchen would be closing soon and that we needed to put in our final orders. It was 9:20 p.m. on a Friday night and the restaurant closed at 10:30 p.m.

Feeling the pressure, we chose the Spicy Vegan Ramen and the Matcha Tiramisu based on our server's recommendations. It was awkward ordering dessert before the meal was over, and though the restaurant wasn't busy, with just one other table inside, we felt rushed out.

The vegan ramen featured rich coconut broth, green spinach noodles, shitake mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, and diced tofu. And the Matcha Tiramisu was a fun play on the Italian version, the grassiness of the matcha blending with the creaminess of the mascarpone cheese, topped with powdered sugar-coated raspberries and a matcha cream slathered lady finger decorated with delicate flower petals.

By this time, at about 10:15 p.m., chairs were being stacked and blinds were being lowered. If Motomoto expects to excel in the competitive downtown Phoenix space, it's going to need to up the ante on presentation, atmosphere, and service.

We're hoping that they're simply growing pains for the new restaurant, as nobody likes to feel like a nuisance instead of a paying customer. Perhaps Motomoto could take some cues from its pleasant and tasty sister restaurant Nanaya.

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