NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in the Valley on Monday to discuss plans for a new arena with the Arizona Coyotes and several prospective partners, multiple sources told Today’s Slapshot. Bettman’s presence is sure to fuel speculation.
Is a deal imminent? Which site is in the lead? Will the Coyotes partner with the Suns and/or ASU? Are municipalities involved? How much will it cost and who’s footing the bill?
All of that information will come out in the wash, assuming the Coyotes do secure a new arena in another part of the Valley. Here are six other questions to ponder as Coyotes Nation waits patiently for an arena announcement that CEO and president Anthony LeBlanc said Saturday should come in the next six weeks.
1. Does ASU need the Coyotes? Many analysts, myself included, have viewed an arena at Karsten Golf Course as a potential windfall for the university due to the revenue generated within the university’s athletic district. Money generated from the district, which was created in 2010 by the Arizona Legislature, will go toward building and revamping ASU’s athletic facilities. Developments in the district will pay fees to ASU, not property taxes. ASU has estimated the district will create a revenue stream equal to the return on a $750 million endowment. The problem with believing ASU would benefit from an arena is that Karsten already has plans for development and the demand for development on that parcel of land is reportedly strong so ASU could generate that revenue anyway. It’s also possible that some of the tax revenue generated by the arena would help pay for the facility, with a portion of the initial cost being financed. That means some revenue wouldn’t go to ASU, so ASU might actually be better off if the arena doesn’t end up there, assuming it can develop all of Karsten.
2. Why might ASU want the Coyotes? A complex that could house hockey, concerts, youth clinics, possibly ASU basketball and other events would create a hub in Tempe that would make ASU an even more attractive destination. Athletic director Ray Anderson has also been open about his desire to transform ASU into a training center for Olympic and world-class athletes. He already has three coaches with extensive Olympic experience in wrestling coach Zeke Jones, swimming coach Bob Bauman and triathlon coach Cliff English. A world-class hockey facility could help further that goal. And let’s face it, the idea of training in the same digs as NHL players would be really attractive to college hockey recruits. ASU needs a boost in hockey recruiting after launching its program before it ever secured a facility.
3. Does the Diamondbacks’ request for Chase Field upgrades impact the Coyotes’ search for an arena? Probably not. As one source noted: “Totally different situation, different stakeholders, different dynamics at play.” The Coyotes aren’t trying to renege or renegotiate their deal; they don’t have one after next season.
4. Do the Suns want to partner with the Coyotes? At the moment, no. Suns owner Robert Sarver would rather go it alone and reap all the financial rewards from a new arena. The problem for Sarver is that he doesn’t possess a whole lot of political capital and he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Valley after running what was the city’s marquee franchise into the ground in short order after buying the team from Jerry Colangelo. The City of Phoenix really wants to keep the Suns downtown, but it would like to include the Coyotes in any new facility. It will apply whatever pressure it can to Sarver to get on board, but if Sarver has the leverage of another potential facility he might bolt in five years if an arbitrator rules that Talking Stick Resort Arena is outdated — a reasonable ruling since the facility is already 24 years old and the current shelf life for arenas is about 30 years.
5. Where does the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community stand in all of this? Good question. The tribe has been remarkably tight-lipped about whatever plans it has for an arena. The 101 location is the wild card in all of this. One source said that until recently, it wasn’t viewed as seriously as the other two locations but it has made recent, aggressive overtures that have pushed it back into the mix.
6. What about Glendale? When asked at the Coyotes town hall meeting on Saturday about the possibility of staying in Glendale long-term, team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said: “I will never say never, but it’s highly, highly unlikely.” That sort of rhetoric has defined this stormy relationship, but Glendale will hold an election this fall with four council seats including the Mayor’s seat up for grabs. What happens if Mayor Jerry Weiers loses his re-election campaign and the face of the council changes to a pro-Coyotes platform? The easiest arena to play in is still the one that already exists.
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