NHL Commish: Coyotes need 'new arena location to succeed'

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The head of the National Hockey League sent a strongly-worded letter to Arizona Legislature leaders that said the Arizona Coyotes need a new arena to thrive in the desert.

Gary Bettman wrote in the letter addressed to Senate President Steve Yarbrough and Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard that said the Coyotes can't and won't remain in Glendale.

"The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed," Bettman said in the letter.

He said Glendale isn't "economically capable" of supporting an NHL franchise. 

The team echoed Bettman's opinion in its own statement.

"The Glendale location is wrong -- both geographically and economically -- given its distance from much of the Coyotes' fan base and, in particular, premium ticket holders and corporate sponsors," Arizona Coyotes Majority Owner, Chairman and Governor Andrew Barroway said in the statement.

Bettman threw his support behind Senate Bill 1149, which would use taxpayer dollars to partially fund their new arena.

The measure would let the team use half the new sales tax generate from the new arena and business district it wants built to pay off bonds.

The Coyotes have said it would invest $170 million in the area and expects the same amount from bond sales.

"The public-private partnership enabled by this legislation creates absolutely no financial risk or debt for the state nor will it make use of any existing state tax dollars," Bettman said.

"This legislation will not require taxpayers to contribute a penny to this project out of existing state tax dollars," Barroway said.

The measure passed a Senate committee last month but many members expressed worry about the plan when it passed committee.

Mesnard said lawmakers very reluctant to pony up the cash for a new arena, no matter how much pressure the NHL puts on them. 

The Speaker said lawmakers want to see the Coyotes stay in town but are not sold on using taxpayer money to keep them here. 

"We're in between a rock and a hard place," Mesnard said Tuesday. "The Coyotes need to convince the taxpayers on this." 

SB 1149 has now stalled in the Legislature. 

The measure would divert nearly $225 million in taxpayer money to help construct a near $400 million hockey arena. 

Mesnard says both Democrat and Republican lawmakers are hesitant to leave taxpayers on the hook for any sports facilities. 

[READ MORE: Arizona Senate panel advances Coyotes arena proposal]

The Coyotes are still looking for a new location for their new arena. They have talked about moving back to downtown Phoenix or to somewhere in the East Valley.

Last week, the team said it met with Mesa city officials about a possible stadium at Sloan Park. The area is already the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.

[READ MORE: Coyotes meet with Mesa about possible stadium at Sloan Park]

A deal to partner with Arizona State University for a hockey stadium was proposed in November but it fell through in February.

[READ MORE: No deal. Coyotes announce ASU arena deal is off the table]

The Coyotes currently play in the taxpayer-funded Gila River Arena. But the team and the city of Glendale have been at odds for several years, with the city canceling a long-term contract in 2015 then agreeing to a year-to-year lease deal. Glendale still owes $145 million on the facility, which it built in 2003 to house the hockey team.

Barroway issued the following statement today regarding the City of Glendale and the Coyotes’ efforts to find a new arena in the Valley:

“As Commissioner Bettman made clear in his letter to legislators, the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Club cannot survive in Glendale.  The Glendale location is wrong -- both geographically and economically -- given its distance from much of the Coyotes' fan base and, in particular, premium ticketholders and corporate sponsors.
“Over the past 15 years, different ownership groups, including the National Hockey League itself, have worked arm in arm with the NHL office and officials to explore every possible option to make Glendale and its arena work as the Coyotes' home.  The bottom line remains the same:  the team's owners continue to lose tens of millions of dollars annually.  Consistent losses of such magnitude are not sustainable -- not for an NHL franchise, or any other business.
“However, as the Commissioner detailed, there is a solution at hand.  We continue to champion a public-private partnership which will secure the Coyotes' future in Arizona while creating thousands of jobs and generating millions of dollars in new tax revenues for the state's General Fund. These funds can and will be deployed in our community, and will directly benefit Arizona residents.  These funds will also ensure the Coyotes’ future in Arizona, and remove the uncertainty that has hovered over the franchise for many years. The Coyotes are simply seeking to split the tax revenues generated from the arena district equally with the state. This legislation will not require taxpayers to contribute a penny to this project out of existing state tax dollars. 

“As a team, we continue to use all available resources to pursue this win-win solution.  While we cannot and will not stay in Glendale, we will continue to push our proposed public-private partnership until we either achieve a long-term arena solution in a more economically viable location in the Valley, or we reach the point where there is simply no longer a path forward in Arizona.  At that point, as the Commissioner indicated, we will work with our partners in the League office and across the NHL to determine our next steps.”

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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