Scottsdale arena funding plan still up in air, Coyotes to cool their heels a few more months

Back in June, Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc met his self-imposed deadline to announce a new arena site by the time of the NHL draft by saying he had chosen a site, but he wasn’t going to tell anyone where it was just yet. Four months later, with LeBlanc’s mystery site still a mystery but the owner again promising more news “soon,” there’s new news, sort of, on one of his rumored favorite sites:

Private developers, in cooperation with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community are exploring the idea of building a 20,000-seat multi-purpose event center south of the Scottsdale Pavilions and west of the 101 Freeway that they say could potentially house the Arizona Coyotes or Phoenix Suns, multiple sources told Arizona Sports this week.

One source termed the project “an examination, with nothing concrete set yet,” admitting that an anchor tenant like the Coyotes or Suns would help.

“At this point we are determining whether or not it can be paid off with debt financing,” the source said. “We’re looking at the feasibility of filling it up with event nights. Obviously, a permanent tenant would be helpful, but we have been examining the option even without a permanent tenant.”

In other words: There are people looking into building an arena in Scottsdale, but they haven’t figured out how to pay for it yet. That’s a long way from “soon” — the Arizona Sports source said no decision is expected for another few months — and a pretty big hurdle to clear, even if there’s a mixed-use “sports village” to go along with the arena. And while a source indicated that “we are not asking for any cash” from the public, there’s a long history of developers not counting things like tax breaks, free land, highway improvements, etc., as “cash,” so I wouldn’t necessarily take this person at their word, especially given that they wouldn’t even put their name on the record. (Which goes against the Society of Professional Journalists’ second rule for allowing sources anonymity, if Arizona Sports cares about such things as journalistic ethics.)

Reading between the lines here, it looks pretty certain that LeBlanc has had his eye on the Salt River land all along, but has been waiting out the developers deciding on whether they can actually afford to build a project there without subsidies, or failing that, how to ask for subsidies that don’t look like subsidies. This latest report, if true, would indicate that nothing is going to be decided along those lines until well into 2017, if then, which should make it fun to watch LeBlanc try to redefine the word “soon.”


11 comments on “Scottsdale arena funding plan still up in air, Coyotes to cool their heels a few more months

  1. This is so idiotic and just reeks of ineptitude on all levels. Scottsdale already had a prime location to build the Coyotes an arena back in the early naughts. Yet the insatiable greed of the owner of the time (Jerry Moyes) made it financially untenable to get the deal done. Scottsdale ended up selling the land to Arizona State University and now that area is thriving.

    As far as building the arena on Native American land, the state and Maricopa County will screw it over based on jurisdiction of venue. Let me explain: around the same time Moyes was looking for a site to build his arena, the Bidwells of Cardinals ilk was doing the same. A deal was in place to build a stadium on Native American land at no cost to the taxpayers. It ended up being quashed because state and county officials were concerned they didn’t have jurisdiction over potential crimes committed by non Native-Americans. In other words, a crime committed on Native American land is under the jurisdiction of that particular Native American nation. Can’t tell Sheriff Arpaio and DPS they have no power in Salt-Pima or Fort-McDowell. That led to Arizona instituting the taxpayer scheme Nevada is emulating for the Raiders.

    • I would say this is one of those cases where not building an arena in favor of something that has activity and traffic every day (even if potentially tax-free) worked out quite well then.

      It may even suggest that “financially tenable” for a hockey arena may actually be nearly impossible to realize, except in a select few urban areas.

  2. The Dbacks have their spring league stadium on the Salt River Reservation, so I don’t think jurisdiction is an issue. It all comes down to money, and as I have said before, the tribal government is no slouch in looking out for their community. If there is a benefit to the tribe it will be built, but that depends on just how greedy LeBlanc is (and I’m thinking that is off the charts).

  3. Another problem is the narrative that all of the Coyotes problems would be solved and they would be financially viable if they were just on the east side of the valley. The problem is, nobody has produced any evidence that this is anywhere near the case. The most “convincing” argument that I’ve heard is “I know so many people that would go to games if the team was just on the east side.”

    Of course, there are many problems with that argument. One, there’s a big difference between people saying they would go if it were more convenient while the whole issue is a hypothetical and actually going once the hypothetical is a reality. Truth is, for every two people that would follow through on those statements, there’s probably three more who would just find a different excuse not to go.

    Two, if there people who don’t go now but would go if the team moved east, it stands to reason that there are people who do go now that wouldn’t if the team moved east. There’d still be a net gain, most likely, but the gains would be tempered by the losses.

    But most importantly, you knowing “so many” people (what’s it really? 8? 10?) that would go to games is not really enough to convince someone to invest nearly a half a billion dollars in an organization that has never come close to turning a profit in over 20 years. Remember, the Coyotes signed a 30-year lease with the City of Glendale when they moved there in 2003, then broke it and tried to move only 6 years later. When that didn’t work, the NHL stepped in and extorted the city.

    Despite the half-dozen friends you have that “would definitely go to all the games if they moved,” a deeper look shows that a lot would have to go right for the team to even break even, much less be profitable. The biggest red flag is the TV ratings. I know hockey isn’t a TV sport, but the ratings are so abysmal in Phoenix that it highly suggests that the team’s issues aren’t that they are too far from downtown Phoenix, rather, they are too close. There doesn’t seem to be enough interest to overcome the issues facing the franchise.

    Why do you think these developers haven’t partnered with the Yotes yet? I mean, they are looking to build an arena, a local big-4 team has openly expressed needing an arena and has the league’s approval to move to said area, should be an immediate partnership.

    But it hasn’t happened. Because if it does happen and the Coyotes fail, they may miss their chance for the D-backs or Suns. Suggests that in-depth studies believe that a move to the East Valley will not be a cure all for all the team’s problems. Even though your buddies would “totally go.”

    • At the rate their going, Phoenix will have an arena on the east side, the west side, and 2 downtown. The Coyotes can schedule games for all four arenas and see which one does the best.

  4. “Remember, the Coyotes signed a 30-year lease with the City of Glendale when they moved there in 2003, then broke it and tried to move only 6 years later. When that didn’t work, the NHL stepped in and extorted the city.”

    The NHL should have allowed the Coyotes to move back to Winnipeg in my opinion.

    @ Robert Levita,

    Quebec City would have 41 guaranteed home sellouts every regular season. It would be great if they got a team back. However, Gary Bettman seems to want a franchise in Seattle

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