Cue more Arizona Coyotes arena drama.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman threw his touque into the ring on Tuesday with a letter to the Arizona state legislature regarding the financing for the Coyotes new arena.
The focus of Bettman’s letter is Senate Bill 1149. If passed, it would provide $395-million in public-private funding to get the arena built; with more emphasis on public funds than private.
The Commissioner writes of the league’s desire to keep the club in the greater-Phoenix area and how the current rink in Glendale is not meeting the needs of the franchise.
From Bettman’s letter, provided by KTAR.com (feel free to read it in your best impression of the commish):
“The Greater Phoenix region represents a strong hockey market which we are proud to have included in the NHL. With that said, let me be abundantly clear: the Coyotes’ current location in Glendale at Gila River Arena is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise. For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the League have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable. Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result – a consistent economic loss.
The simple truth? The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.“
[Emphasis is his own.]
Bettman goes on to extol the virtues of SB 1149.
A couple things.
We all know that Phoenix-turned-Arizona Coyotes are the hill that Bettman will (figuratively) die on. He has gone out of his way to keep the franchise in the desert.
As Bettman points out, “For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the League have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable. Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result – a consistent economic loss … The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”
Well yeah. The team has been pretty clear they aren’t staying.
Having the NHL commissioner back you is clearly noteworthy, but the Coyotes have repeatedly said they won’t stay in Glendale long term.
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) March 8, 2017
Funny thing, though. Back in 2009, Bettman said this while courting new owners for the ‘Yotes. From AZ Central:
“[W]e believe can, with new ownership and with the accommodations the city of Glendale is prepared to make, we think can succeed,” Bettman added. “Glendale has declined to say whether it would provide any incentives to a new owner.”
The city of Glendale did eventually make accommodations – at the behest of the NHL.
The league demanded the city of Glendale pay subsidies to finance the operating losses of the team.
“Glendale then paid the NHL $50 million in subsidies to cover team operating losses from 2010 to 2013 … Without the subsidies, the team says it can no longer play in Glendale.”
As we all know, the city of Glendale slammed the door shut on financing the Coyotes any further. The payments of the subsidies nearly crippled the city.
Now Bettman has turned his demands to the state legislature.
He wouldn’t go as far to say that the Coyotes will leave Arizona all together, though. Just that they’d leave Glendale. Once again, a plan the team has had for a while.
From an outsider, it seems a bit ballsy (for lack of a better term) to take his demands to the state after muscling the city of Glendale.
Yes, he’s going to support the Coyotes in Arizona because it is his favorite pet project.
He’s not going to go as far as to use some of the NHL’s discretionary funds to help take some of the cost of the arena on the league’s shoulders. Can’t imagine the other owners would be very happy with a decision like that.
As of right now, Bettman’s attempt to sway the legislature appears to be for naught. The bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass.
Az Sen. Prez Steve Yarbrough and Speaker @JDMesnard tell azcentral votes not there to pass $395 mil Yotes Arena ($225 mil public money)
— Craig Harris (@charrisazrep) March 8, 2017
When Puck Daddy spoke to Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc in Nov. 2016, the executive said, “I was with Gary [Bettman] earlier this week at league meetings in Colorado Springs and his closing remarks to me when we were saying goodbye was ‘get your (arena) deal done.
Shortly thereafter, the team then entered into an agreement with Arizona State University for a new rink in Tempe. Yet a scant three months later the deal died when ASU pulled out.
Hence the return to pushing the legislation now by the NHL.
The Coyotes are staying in Glendale through the 2018-19 season but beyond that, who knows? The league might have to get more involved in the negotiation process alongside the Coyotes than they want to.