For the better part of the last year the Arizona Coyotes have remained steadfast in their desire to leave the city of Glendale but not Arizona.
The franchise has called the state home since 1996, but moved to the West Valley city in 2003, playing in a solid hockey arena that is now known as Gila River Arena.
However, pretty much from the moment they moved to Glendale ownership questions have surrounded the organization, and from there questions about their desire to remain in Arizona persisted. While the ownership saga was settled with the purchase of the franchise by Renaissance Sports and Entertainment in 2013, the story of where they’d call home persists.
Last year the Glendale City Council voted to terminate its 15-year lease agreement with the Coyotes, and for a while it appeared as if they may not have a home. The team and city eventually agreed to a two-year lease, which for all intents and purposes only served to buy some time.
The question is, what will it get them?
Plenty of talk has surrounded the idea of the Coyotes moving within Arizona, either to an East Valley location that would possibly be shared with Arizona State University or maybe a downtown venue, perhaps along with the Phoenix Suns, who are also seeking a new arena.
The latter option is one Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is fond of, as it’s what he presented during his State of the City address Tuesday. He continued with that thought Wednesday as a guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“Yes, I believe that the Coyotes have one year left on their arrangement with the City of Glendale,” he said. “I know that they’re discussing about some taxing districts out in the east valley; I don’t think, realistically, that’s going to get through the state legislature.
“I think the most realistic option for the Coyotes is to make downtown Phoenix their long-term home, and if they can’t find a home in a year, they’re going to go. And guess who would love to have them?”
Stanton cited Las Vegas as a threat to steal the Coyotes, and noted there are many cities in Canada who would also like to take the franchise out of Arizona.
“And I don’t want to lose a major league franchise from our community,” he said. “So if I can be a leader and step up to the plate, to steal a baseball metaphor, and make this happen, I’m going to do it.”
Stanton’s intentions may be noble and have the support of many in the state, but it takes two to tango and if the Suns and Coyotes cannot come to an agreement then, well, the Stanton feels the hockey franchise’s exit from Arizona will be on the horizon.
“I think that is a likelihood,” he said. “I think that is a real likelihood. I don’t want them to leave Arizona; I think that (NHL Commissioner) Gary Bettman has made it clear they want to stay here, but they have to have a home, and if they can’t work out an arrangement with the city of Glendale and they’ve obviously not been able to do so, and they don’t have a new home, we’re going to put them in a position where they don’t have many choices.”
Along with the concept of the two professional sports franchises sharing a new arena, Stanton also understands there may be difficulty in getting taxpayers to help fund one in the first place. The money would come from a tourist tax on car and hotel room rentals, and in the end he wants to be fiscally responsible.
But to him, keeping the Coyotes in Arizona and getting them to Phoenix is his duty.
“When you have an asset like the Coyotes — which is an important regional asset — as a leader, I think I need to do what I need to do to make sure they have that home here,” he said. “And I want them to hoist that Stanley Cup in downtown Phoenix.”
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