The drama surrounding the Arizona Coyotes and their arena issues feel like they’re never going to end.
Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports reported Wednesday night a group based in Scottsdale, Arizona is courting the Coyotes to as tenants for a new multi-purpose event facility on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land.
The facility would be part of a larger, approximately 65-acre sports village that could also include retail, entertainment, living and work spaces. A group of local businessmen, investors and advisors has been working with the community for more than a year, and multiple sources said the basic structure of the financing is already in place with Barclays Bank in the fold.
One source termed the project “an examination, with nothing concrete set yet,” admitting that an anchor tenant like the Coyotes or Suns would help.
“At this point we are determining whether or not it can be paid off with debt financing,” the source said. “We’re looking at the feasibility of filling it up with event nights. Obviously, a permanent tenant would be helpful, but we have been examining the option even without a permanent tenant.”
The backers of the project are speaking with the Phoenix Suns in addition to the Coyotes; however, the Coyotes current arena situation makes them more attractive as permanent tenants.
The team’s lease at Gila River Arena ends at after this season. All reports indicated the team would be heading to Tempe where they’d build an arena in conjunction with Arizona State University.
As Morgan continues, a decision will come down within the next six months.
A location on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian land could remove many of the perceived barriers to building an arena in other locations, including bonding issues, tax districts and political or public backlash. As one source noted: “We are not asking for any cash” from the community or the public.
The Coyotes have been subject to a political war of sorts with the City of Glendale over the lease at Gila River. The idea of private financing – without taking any public funds – is ideal for the team.
In late-June 2016, Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told reporters, “What we are going to be approaching [the new arena project] with is a concept of not looking for taxpayer dollars. Are we looking for some form of refund of sales taxes generated? Perhaps, those are the preliminary discussions we had with the state legislature a couple of months ago. It’s a very fluid situation, but what needed to happen was the site selection, which we have done and that allows us to move forward and start all these other ancillary things in a more progressed manner.”
The expectation of LeBlanc’s at the time is the team would front fifty percent of the cost and the public funds collected would finance the other half.
LeBlanc noted the team had selected the site for the arena. At the time, he said they were ‘several weeks’ away from making the official announcement. Again, that interview was in late June. The Coyotes have yet to officially release the arena site details.
Could the delay in announcement be because the ‘Yotes were having second thoughts about their selection and are considering this new location?
In short, no. That is, if you take LeBlanc at his word.
“Throughout this process we have had a number of groups solicit our involvement. This particular group and site are not one with which the Coyotes are working,” said LeBlanc to Arizona Sports on Wednesday.
Unless the Coyotes have signed a contract with their new site, it wouldn’t make good business-sense for the team to not check out the possible Scottsdale location. The franchise is in a better financial position than they had been in years past. Saving any money on an arena can only help secure their future.
Speculation will only continue until the team makes a formal announcement, but it could be worse. The speculation could be about relocation instead.