Moving parts, challenges, tight lips around new Arizona Coyotes arena

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
~George Santayana (1863-1952)


Jun 10, 2016, 1:32pm MST INDUSTRIES & TAGS Sports Business

Mike Sunnucks  Senior Reporter Phoenix Business Journal

Coyotes President, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc wants to leave Glendale’s Gila River Arena and at least announce a preliminary or framework of a new home venue.

A shared Phoenix arena with the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a shared arena in Tempe with Arizona State University as well as new facilities in Mesa or the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community are all options.

The options all have plenty of moving parts and some challenges. And, the salient parties are all being very quiet.

All this also comes as the NHL considers locating teams in Las Vegas and/or Quebec City. The NFL, NHL and even the NBA could be in a race to see who can locate a team first in Vegas. The Oakland Raiders are considering a move to Vegas.

LeBlanc has stressed the Coyotes’ commitment to Arizona. The team is moving its American Hockey League affiliate to Tucson. There are also rumors the Coyotes could be trying to trade up in the NHL draft to get expected top pick Auston Matthews. He is from Scottsdale.

Let’s run through the Coyotes options here in Arizona, their status and the some of the challenges each may face:

(1) A new shared downtown arena with the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has the led the charge for a shared arena downtown for the Coyotes and Suns. That would fill an arena with plenty of games and bring more people downtown and on Metro light rail.

Stanton has also argued a new arena would improve Phoenix’s ability to attract concerts, big conferences and political conventions.

Redeveloping the South Building of the Phoenix Convention Center is a prime option.

A shared arena might be an easier sell to the Phoenix City Council and city voters needed to approve public financing.

It also requires the Suns and the NBA team’s managing partner Robert Sarver to be willing to share an arena with the NHL Coyotes.

That includes splitting up more lucrative weekend dates and sharing naming rights and concert revenue. There are other cities, such as Dallas, where NBA teams and NHL teams with different owners share arenas.

The Suns’ lease isn’t up until 2022. The Coyotes would like to get out of Glendale soon after the city took management of Gila River Arena away from the team and awarded a contract to AEG.

Phoenix also needs to sell the city-owned Phoenix Grand Sheraton Hotel downtown to be able to finance a new arena.

But there is a lawsuit and court rulings challenging Arizona government’s use of car rental tax revenue for sports stadium and arenas. That could inhibit city arena financing.

Suns Senior Vice President Maria Baier declined comment on arena machinations.

“At this point, we have no comment,” Baier said.

Stanton has been in China this week for an international climate change summit. His office also did not comment.

(2) A new shared arena in Tempe with the Arizona State University

The Coyotes and ASU have been talking about a new shared arena, most likely on Karsten Golf Course just east of the school’s Tempe campus.

The arena would house the Coyotes as well ASU’s hockey, basketball and other sports.

That site would put the Coyotes closer to East Valley, Scottsdale and east Phoenix fans. It would also give ASU a much-needed new arena.

The Karsten development could also include an accompanying hotel and real estate development.

Coyotes representatives approached some state lawmakers earlier this year about approving a measure to allow for creation of a special stadium/arena district to capture some sales and tourism tax revenue within the area around the new arena and use that to help financing development.

That idea ran into resistance from fiscal conservatives, including some business interests, and tax watchdogs at the Arizona Capitol.

ASU is moving forward with plans for a smaller multipurpose sports arena on campus. That could house hockey and other sports.

The project is part of the ASU Athletic Facilities District which involves the school and real estate development firm Catellus Development Corp.

An ASU spokesman declined comment on whether moving forward with a smaller arena indicated anything on the status of a potential deal with the Coyotes.

The school spokesman said there was “nothing new on the arena front.”

Coyotes spokesman Rich Nairn also declined comment.

(3) A new arena in Mesa

There are two not so out of the question options beyond Tempe and Phoenix for the Coyotes to ponder for a new arena.

One option is Mesa.

Mesa could work with the Coyotes on a deal to get the team near the Chicago Cubs spring training ballpark Sloan Park. That is close to Tempe and ASU and near the juncture of the Loops 101 and 202.

Mesa voters approved a $99 million deal in 2010 to finance development of the Cubs ballpark after the team threatened to move its spring training to Naples, Florida.

Mesa voters could also be asked to approve a sales tax measure in November to finance a new Arizona State University campus in the Main Street/downtown area.

Mesa would also like to redevelop the Fiesta Mall area at Alma School Road and the U.S. 60.

Mesa also has stops on the Metro light rail on Main Street east of the Loop 101.

The quandary for an East Valley arena is whether the Coyotes would face the same challenge of getting fans to drive to a suburban location as they do now with getting fans to Glendale.

Mesa spokesman Kevin Christopher said the East Valley city also didn’t have anything to report.

(4) Indian land

The ultimate in-state backup plan for the Coyotes as well as for the Suns and potentially the Arizona Diamondbacks is to build a new stadium or arena on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.

The Salt River land runs east of Scottsdale along the Loop 101. The D-backs and Colorado Rockies developed a new spring training ballpark at Indian Bend Road and the Loop 101 in 2011.

The Salt River tribe has stepped up developments along the freeway in recent years. That includes a new casino, resort hotel, Butterfly Wonderland tourist attraction and Top Golf location.

There is also the new OdySea Aquarium.

A Coyotes arena could be located near central Scottsdale or south Scottsdale and north Tempe if the team goes down that path.

The temptation for the teams is that they won’t have to go through the public votes and public financing process on tribal land. The Salt River tribe operates two casinos.

Those revenue streams could be leveraged to develop new a new sports arena.

But the current gaming compact between the state of Arizona and Arizona Native American tribes ends in 2027. That’s in the not so distant future and could impact the tribe’s finances if the state looks for a greater share of casino revenue.

Mike Sunnucks writes about residential and commercial real estate, government, law, sports business and workplace issues.





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