GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes will keep a close eye on the upcoming Glendale elections, starting with Tuesday’s recall election for councilmember Gary Sherwood, who faces a major challenge from Ray Malnar in the Sahuaro District.
Unless there is a significant change in that city’s leadership at next year’s Mayoral and city council elections, however, the Coyotes are finished dealing with Glendale. In all probability, they are finished anyway after the city voided their 15-year arena lease and management agreement in June, and then informed the Coyotes they would be seeking their own arena manager by beginning an RFP process.
“At some point you have to make a decision that you can’t continue to talk to a wall,” Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. “You have to accept reality and look at what your alternatives are. That’s where we are right now.”
LeBlanc declined to discuss many specifics of those alternatives, but he did say discussions (not negotiations) have been ongoing for about a month with several groups on a new arena in the Valley, and he did name one well-known possibility.
“I don’t think anything has progressed to a point where it would be prudent to state what options look like but things are moving pretty quickly; in particular with a couple of these options,” he said. “The city of Phoenix has been the most vocal. They have an NBA franchise (Suns) that they are very tied to and they want to ensure there’s no hiccup in regards to that.
“We’re working as closely as we can to understand what all the options look like and there are other communities and stakeholders we are talking to.”
As the team eyes its future, Arizona Sports has learned that there are at least three significant possibilities for the Coyotes to remain in the Valley when their agreement with Glendale expires after the 2016-17 season.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and councilmember Michael Nowakowski have been pushing to bring the Coyotes downtown in a shared facility with the Suns, who are seeking a new arena.
It’s no secret the Coyotes have had discussions with Arizona State University and the City of Tempe for an East Valley location.
The Coyotes have also had some level of discussion on a Scottsdale location along the 101 corridor near Indian Bend Road with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, but it would be premature to speculate on that location because those discussions are believed to be in their infancy, relative to the other two locations.
The Coyotes are finalizing the hiring of an arena consultant this week to help them navigate the various municipalities and possibilities they are considering. If one of those locations pans out, multiple sources have told Arizona Sports that several potential investors have expressed interest in the Coyotes, assuming they leave Glendale for another Valley location.
With key members of the IceArizona ownership group buying back some shares from majority owner Andrew Barroway, the Coyotes would likely listen to other potentially interested investors. Although one source said the team is not currently seeking additional investors.
When the Coyotes and Glendale reached agreement on a two-year deal to keep the team at Gila River Arena through 2016-17, LeBlanc said his immediate goal was to work out a longer-term deal with the city. That desire waned after Glendale opted to seek an outside arena manager, igniting the latest strife between the ill-matched partners.
LeBlanc believes that while Glendale says it wants to keep the Coyotes publicly, its actions belie that statement. He also noted that Broward County recently conducted research that found the county and BB&T Center would be worse off if the Florida Panthers left that arena in Sunrise, Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“They’ve done exhaustive research,” LeBlanc said. “They’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a significant hit to the county’s finances so they’ve gone the other way. They’re working with the team and a collection of financial experts to put together a financial package that ensures the team can stay.
“What we’re hearing from the City of Glendale and their representative at Beacon (Sports Capital Management) is not only are they not looking at something like that but they think that we as a hockey team should be subsidizing the city. It’s mind-boggling.
“Our hope is that somebody will take a look at what Broward County has done and ask a simple question: ‘Has there been an economic analysis of what happens if the Coyotes leave?’ Unfortunately, if you’re going to ignore the revenue impact of the team being here and you’re only going to look at what your expectation is on the expense side, you’re not going to make the right decisions.”
If the Coyotes move forward with one of the new arena proposals, they would need to play in a temporary home after their agreement with Glendale expires in 2017 until construction of the new arena is complete. Talking Stick Resort Arena is the most logical option.