The Runner Sports

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Gives Arizona Legislature Ultimatum On New Arena For Arizona Coyotes

In what may be dubbed “The Showdown at O.K. Corral”

You knew it would come down to this… right? Tuesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman lowered the boom on the Arizona Legislature to approve $225 million in public financing for a new Arizona Coyotes arena in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley. The alternative would be that the franchise may be forced to leave the state and re-locate. The $395 million arena project would include a $170 million contribution from the hockey team. Part of the public financing would come from the hosting city, who would be awarded the franchise.

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, has introduced Senate Bill 1149 which would include up to 30 acres of land for the project. In that district, up to half of the state’s share of sales taxes collected from retail sales and hotel revenue would go towards paying the bond debt for the new arena. In addition, a 2% district sales tax would be assessed to purchases in that district to aid in decreasing the cost of arena construction.

This all sounds good, right?

Yes —  if  the Legislature had the votes to pass the bill. It seems they don’t. Bettman sent Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard a three-page letter attempting to persuade them to move the public financing bill forward. Bettman stated Tuesday per Craig Harris of azcentral.com“The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.

The Arizona Coyotes majority team owner, Andrew Barroway, also stated: “If the team reaches a point where there is simply no longer a path forward in Arizona, then we will work with our partners in the league office and across the NHL to determine our next steps.”

Mesnard who believes the Senate bill lacks the votes to pass commented: “While I very much want to see the Coyotes remain in Arizona, what they’re asking for is no small thing. The NHL first needs to make the case for a state-funded arena to the taxpayers. We’re not seeing a lot of enthusiasm that the public wants to foot the bill for a new arena, and until the NHL can win over taxpayers, they’re going to have a tough sell at the Legislature.

Arizona Coyotes R E L O C A T E

To most all Arizona Coyotes fans this is a dirty word. They’ve heard it over and over again when the team’s ownership flaws came to light and threatened the existence of the team to continue to play in Arizona. Is it a distraction for the players, and the entire Coyotes staff? Without doubt. Just ask captain Shane Doan, he’s been through it all with his 20-year stay with the team here in Arizona. He has kept loyal to the team here, when other teams have tried to tempt him to leave for greener pastures, and entice his departure with the reward of at least a chance at winning a cup.

The dilemma which has ensued is difficult to resolve. The current ownership group inherited the Gila River Arena, and since they bought the team in 2013, they have determined that Glendale is not economically viable for them to succeed. The reason is, most NHL hockey fans reside in the East Valley, and driving to Glendale on a weeknight for a game has become cumbersome, to say the least. The traffic and parking causes most fans to arrive late, and miss action they are paying to view.

Where else can an arena be built in the area?

Just recently Mesa’s Sloan Park area, where the World Champion Chicago Cubs play spring training baseball, has arisen as another location option, since the ASU site has been trashed. Of course, that is mere speculation now that the funding bill may not become law.

Could this be the end of an era of NHL hockey in Arizona? It doesn’t look bright, but when politicians get together who knows what might transpire? The team’s success financially is not a guarantee just because they may draw a bit better in an East Valley location. Some critics have mentioned it doesn’t help that the team has not been in the NHL playoffs since 2012. After all, every sports fan loves a winner.

Unfortunately, all this deliberation and public financing issues does nothing towards resolving the fact that the Arizona Coyotes will be without a place to play after next season ends. Even if the legislation gets approved can a new arena be built by October 2019?

This is worse than a 0-0 triple overtime playoff game.

Stay tuned for more.

William Grigsby
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William Grigsby

I was born in Chicago, and have been following hockey my whole life. I moved to Arizona in 1974, and have been an Arizona Coyotes fan from the time they first moved here in 1996. I feel I can bring a new perspective to the team. I hope you will enjoy what I write.
William Grigsby
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