While the Arizona legislature debates and then votes on Bill 1149, which would see public funding for a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes, Gary Bettman sent a strong letter telling the law makers that the team is not financially viable in their current Glendale location. The letter, published by KTAR News in Arizona, details the struggles the league and private ownership have had over the past fifteen years in trying to make the Coyotes work, and gives an ultimatum about their future.
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 have all 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.
Bettman goes on to site a study (Elliot D. Pollack & Company) that posits a new arena in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley would create over 2,500 jobs and have an impact of $600MM. Before closing his letter by outlining where exactly the new arena should be built, Bettman does include a sort of veiled-threat about the future of the Coyotes in Arizona at all.
While the Coyotes ownership has consistently promised to explore every possible option to keep the franchise in Arizona, no business can afford to be in financial and marketing limbo.
As the commissioner says, the Coyotes have long needed a new home closer to their fans and the city core. The bill as it currently stands would provide at least $225MM of public funding towards the expected cost of $395MM for a new arena, and would instantly make the Coyotes a more viable option for investors. Unfortunately the bill looks like it will not pass, as Craig Harris of AZCentral reports.
If it doesn’t go through, it doesn’t yet mean the end of the Coyotes in Arizona but it does deal them a vicious blow. With the commissioner coming out so candidly against staying in Glendale, if there is no private investor that comes to their rescue they may end up moving elsewhere. Though relocation rumors have been shot down as quickly as they’ve popped up over the past year, losing another court battle would likely spark them up again. As Harris reports, Bettman was the one who fought to keep the Coyotes in Glendale in 2009 when there was a bid to move them to Ontario—he said at the time that the right owner could make it work in the Phoenix suburb.