Glendale’s city manager and a former mayor are criticizing the Arizona Coyotes for the team’s financial struggles at Gila River Arena. The comments come after the Coyotes and NHL stressed the need for a new arena, stating that Glendale was not a viable option.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently wrote a letter urging Arizona lawmakers to approve Senate Bill 1149, which would provide a funding model for a new $395 arena project. That proposal, which calls on the Coyotes to pay $170 million of the venue’s cost, is not currently tied to a specific site, but it would likely lead to the team playing in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley.
Both Bettman and the Coyotes, in a separate statement, said that the team’s financial struggles make it unsustainable to remain at Gila River Arena. In his letter, Bettman stated “the Coyotes’ current location in Glendale at Gila River Arena is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise. For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the League have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable. Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result–a consistent economic loss.”
In response, Glendale city manager Kevin Phelps and former Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs took aim at the Coyotes. Each criticized the Coyotes for not putting forth a better product, with Phelps speaking to the Arizona Republic and Scruggs writing a letter to Arizona senate president Steve Yarbrough and house speaker J.D. Mesnard. More from AZ Central:
“We have continually invested heavily to keep NHL in the state of Arizona. We have held up our end of the bargain. They have not held up their end of the bargain. They cannot put a product on the ice for a community that has a lot of options,” Phelps said. “They don’t believe there is any correlation to the fact that they have not put a team that has been competitive for many, many years.”
Scruggs, mayor from 1993 to 2013, has said little about the Coyotes since leaving office in 2013. In the two-page letter, she said that she had a front-row seat in bringing the team to Glendale, but that Bettman and team executives have engaged in “fast-talking and fuzzy math.” She said the commissioner and team are misleading the Legislature and lawmakers should abort the funding plan.
“In their minds, the Coyotes’ lack of success is Glendale’s fault. Disregard the fact that the team ranks last in the NHL in hockey spending, continually trades away top talent while it annually ‘builds for the future,’ and spends next to nothing to market the team,” Scruggs wrote. “I will say what they will not: the Coyotes position at the bottom of the standings is a leadership problem, not a location problem.”
Gila River Arena opened in 2003. The Coyotes’ lease at the arena runs through the 2017-18 NHL season.
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