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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The City of Tempe has still not announced a decision on the Coyotes’ response to their RFP. First they announced they would do so at the end of December, 2021. Then it moved to the end of January, 2022. Now, it’s crickets. To refresh your memory, in July, 2021, the city issued an RFP for “a mixed-use project incorporating a professional sports franchise and entertainment district for two parcels of city-owned land totaling 46 acres at the northeast corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway.” The Coyotes, as Bluebird Development, were the only entity to submit a bid on September 3, 2021.

The Coyotes want to build a $1.7 billion development with a 16,000-seat arena, hotels, apartments and shops on 46 acres near Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway that the team said would be financed by private investors. The team wants to use a portion of city sales tax revenues generated on the site to help pay for $20 million in infrastructure and other costs to get the site shovel ready.

One obstacle to the proposal has been Sky Harbor Airport. It is concerned, as it should be, that this development will be 460 feet away from the end of one of the runways. It is also concerned about the height of the proposed apartment complexes and the arena itself as well as the intrusive lighting that has the potential to disrupt pilots.

Tempe is having an election to select 3 councilmembers who would be sworn in July of 2022. The city’s Primary Election is March 8, 2022. Usually, but not always, the Primary Election produces the winners as 50% plus 1 vote is all that is needed to have won the Primary. If the winners are not selected in the Primary, there will be a General Election on May 17, 2022.

At a January, 2022, Tempe candidate forum all candidates were asked to respond to the Coyotes’ RFP. They were asked whether they supported the plan and what it would take to get their support for the deal. This is the link to that forum: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/tempe-election-council-candidates-sound-off-on-coyotes-arena-deal-2020-election-at-republic-forum/ar-AASLpx2 . Apparently all are very good tap dancers for they certainly danced around this issue. It really is pretty simple. Either they support giving $20 million taxpayer dollars to a sports owner or they do not. That is acknowledged as part of the deal. Not much in-depth research is required on this deal point. Here are their responses:

John Skelton: A former Arizona Cardinals quarterback who operates an in-home senior care center in the East Valley, Skelton said the NHL team’s proposal appeared to be a “good deal” for Tempe, especially as that land isn’t currently generating revenue for the city. A development of that size could cause traffic issues and he said if elected he would want to look at what the city can do to alleviate congestion around the project.

Casey Clowes: An attorney and community advocate whose work focuses on environmental and social equity causes, Clowes said she grew up playing hockey and attending Coyotes games. If elected, she would look at the benefits and drawbacks of developing an arena as opposed to another type of development on that land. One deal point she would drill down on would be any financial incentives like property tax subsidies offered to the team, which she doesn’t support. She would also encourage the team to prioritize hiring Tempe residents, hiring companies that offer fair wages and hiring companies that use apprenticeship programs during construction.

Gina Kash: The project could help draw money for local businesses and she would support the arena, said Kash, a former top-level Republican caucus staffer at the Arizona House of Representatives where she started in 1998. She wants to see local businesses prioritized in the project and would want to have discussions with residents on whether tax dollars should be used in the deal.

Harper Lines: A member of the Tempe Arts and Culture Commission who oversees community engagement at the University of Phoenix, Lines said the city needs to weigh potential job opportunities and economic development benefits of an arena against transportation issues it could cause. The city also needs to consider the team’s rocky relationship with Glendale and reports of late rent and other payments to Glendale so that the city isn’t saddled with debt if it enters into a deal with the Coyotes.

Jennifer Adams: The only sitting council member candidate running who was first elected in 2018 said she is currently involved in negotiations and couldn’t comment on the question but that she “evaluates everything very carefully” to see if a deal is a right fit for Tempe.

Arlene Chin: Appointed by the council to fill a vacancy on the dais from May 2019 to July 2020, Chin, who works for the ASU Foundation and is active in city commissions and nonprofit boards, said overall she is supportive of bringing more investment to Tempe and of projects that could bring jobs and business development but it has to pencil out financially for the city. She raised concerns about the infrastructure needs to support such a large project, potential burdens it could put on city systems and the cost of moving a city operations yard that is on the site that would have to be moved before construction.

Berdetta Hodge: Hodge, who has long been involved in the local community, said she would support the project if it’s the right fit for Tempe. She is optimistic that a project of this magnitude could bring more jobs and commerce to the city but would want to make sure that traffic issues and neighborhood impacts are addressed. She wants the team to prioritize working with union contractors that provide prevailing wages, create partnerships with community groups and schools to provide opportunities for residents and support parks and neighborhoods. She wouldn’t support city funding for the project and said Tempe residents shouldn’t be taxed for it.

Current speculation is that there are 2 councilmembers who support the deal; 2 councilmembers who oppose the deal; and the rest are undecided.

Here’s my take. I have no insider knowledge and what I offer is pure speculation. While everyone waits for the RFP outcome, political leaders have realized that making a decision prior to the Primary Election on March 8th is not in their best interests. If those who are elected appear to support the deal, they will be comfortable in announcing the RFP’s acceptance. Obviously, the reverse is true as well. Depending on the results of the Primary Election, don’t expect Tempe to do anything until the candidate winners are announced.

You can be sure the Coyotes are putting substantial sums into the campaigns of those who support their RFP. I checked all candidates’ campaign filings of January 31st and there is nothing outstanding with regard to their campaign contributions. That is to be expected. Their next campaign filings will reveal who received money from whom.

However, money can only do so much. There are well organized groups of citizens who oppose this deal as well as the Council’s possible decision to give $20 million in taxpayer dollars to support a sports franchise. This has garnered the attention of the Coyotes who have called upon fans to start an email campaign and petitions in support of the Coyotes. The battle lines have been drawn. Let’s see who becomes the victor.

On a totally separate note and kind of related is the Coyotes/ASU deal that allows the Coyotes to play in a college facility for at least the next 3 years. I suspect all the owners within the NHL are spittin’ mad. The Coyotes’ owner is already financially subsidized in a league revenue sharing scheme. With even less revenue generated in this small facility, the other owners will take it on the chin by having to share even more revenue with the Coyotes. They cannot be happy at this prospect.

Bettman is also allowing the Coyotes to play in a 5,000-seat facility. The actual attendance will be even less than that as seats will be consumed for press and production uses. Yet when others sought temporary, smaller facility usage, historically they have been denied by Bettman. Why the discrimination in this case? I suspect Bettman will do anything to save face when he made his absolute declaration that hockey would stay in Arizona as well as his commitment to the southwest media market.

I wonder if Bettman and Daley have make the trek to Tempe to chat up councilmembers in an effort to shore up support for a positive decision on the Coyotes’ proposal?

My final observation is that I am pleased the City of Glendale made the decision to sever ties with the Coyotes. Their history of ownership has been filled with unpleasant drama and financial issues. Hey, Tempe Councilmembers, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Consider your RFP just the first chapter in your possible, drama-filled relationship with the team. It won’t be your last.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I haven’t written for awhile simply because being a Glendale City councilmember is more complicated and busier than ever. It takes a minimum of 3 hours and often days to write, edit and publish one blog.  I miss writing and I need to make a concerted effort to carve out the time to do so. Be that as it may, there are many events of which to make note.  Most are not enough for a full blog on their own but should be recognized.

Arguably, the most important recent event is the Grand Opening of Heroes Regional Park Lake. While the celebration was occurring, people were already catching fish. About 100 residents came to the ceremony and many expressed their gratitude to see this wonderful addition to the park. Next up will be to get some sports fields constructed followed by the biggest, most expensive ticket item, the Recreation & Aquatics Center.

Inflation is killing all of us, including cities. Yesterday I filled up my car to the tune of $56. Before Biden that same tank of gas cost me about $25 or $30. My weekly grocery bill has increased by about 40%. Then there are supply chain issues. My local Safeway has had bare shelves, especially in the pasta and chicken sections. They haven’t had any chicken for the past 10 days.

This situation is rough on people on a fixed income, like me and obviously on the poor. From what we all hear it will continue throughout 2022 and we can expect prices to go even higher. The same holds true for cities. For instance, Glendale uses a lot of chemicals to treat its water supply. Those same chemical prices have risen about 30%. This same scenario goes for everything from copy paper, cleaning supplies to vehicle parts and maintenance. While Glendale is earning more revenue than ever before it is paying higher prices than ever before.

Development in the Loop 303 area continues to boom. Several new projects have been announced and there continues to be more in the pipeline. The industry has recognized that Glendale’s “New Frontier” is an established job corridor in the Valley.

Westgate continues to thrive with new development as well. After some internal delays on the part of the developer, Tiger Woods’ Pop Stoke will begin construction any day and is slated to be completed this fall. To the east of the AMC theater, a pickle ball complex complete with a restaurant and bar and rental facilities, ala Top Golf, is slated to start construction in the near future and is expected to be open prior to the Super Bowl. The Thirsty Lion, a 2-story restaurant and bar, situated between the arena and the Renaissance Hotel, is about to start construction as well. A new concept restaurant, exclusively serving some of the most decadent desserts you can possibly imagine, will take the place of the Saddle Ranch Chop House.

Let’s not forget the Crystal Lagoon Island Resort development. I continue to believe it is the most significant development ever to occur within Glendale. It is a mini-Disneyland without the $100+ a day charge per person to enter. Expect about 12 million visitors a year. It will contribute nearly $10M a year in sales tax revenue to Glendale. I expect it to draw visitors not just from the state or the southwest but nationally and even internationally. It’s a Saturday and I just checked their live camera. Earth moving equipment is busy today and the large crane was in use. If you would like to check it out, use this site: https://app.truelook.cloud/dashboard/553/923/live?code=15hm7ev0xey9jmgpfyf2jd9e0&fbclid=IwAR2VhkoN56nBnnmqMouCzAWFM9BHxtvSmNlj83REtd_D2fuA3g9vdeZ-SAY

One of the city services most loved by residents is sanitation. Recently our City Manager related that 44% of the sanitation drivers were out with Covid. Sanitation division managers and employees from other departments stepped up to fill the void resulting in no disruption in your service. Your trash was collected as usual and I bet you had no idea that Covid was crippling the department’s ability to service you. Yet I recently read that the same kind of situation occurred in Tempe resulting in a disruption of pick-up service for about a week. Two cities, two different ways to handle the problem.

At our next council voting meeting I will vote to approve a rate increase in sanitation. Sanitation is run by Michelle Woytenko, Director of Field Operations. Ms. Woytenko is one of the best Directors in the city of Glendale. She is no nonsense and provides excellent information and service to every resident. Our office has contacted her to report a citizen’s trash pick-up being missed and Ms. Woytenko will have someone picking it up the same day. Her explanation for a rate increase was logical and persuasive.

Speaking of money, in February the city council begins its annual budget oversight and preparation for the next fiscal year. We will begin with the Capital Improvement Program. This is the portion of the budget that lays out what infrastructure the city will build, rehabilitate, improve, or maintain for the next 5 years. It is one of the most important segments of the city budgetary process.

The city has completed its redistricting process and submitted its plan to the state and the feds for final approval. As of now, unless something dramatic occurs, the new city council boundaries are set not only for the next election in November of 2022 but for the next ten years until the next census.

There has been minimal accommodation for the tremendous growth occurring in the Yucca district. Instead of creating all districts with a population of about 41,000 the Yucca district will start with a population of 39,000. However, I contended that the accommodation is insufficient. I anticipate an additional 14,000 moving into the Yucca district in the next few years. I anticipate a population in the Yucca district of about 55,000. The Yucca district is the ‘gorilla’ of Glendale’s districts. It is the largest geographically; it accounts for about 80% of all recent and current economic development within the city; and will soon have the greatest population of all the districts. Much of the new population can be attributed to Stonehaven, a residential development between Camelback and Bethany, 83rd to 91st Avenues. At build-out it will contain 1,365 new homes. Another factor is the multitude of apartment complexes in the Westgate area. Westgate needs a mass of people living there to support all its retail and restaurants.

The eastern boundary between the Yucca and Ocotillo districts has changed. From Northern Avenue to Orangewood Avenue the boundary is 75th Avenue. The east side of 75th is in the Ocotillo District and the west side is in the Yucca district. At Orangewood Ave to Glendale Avenue the boundary is 71st Avenue. From Glendale Avenue to Bethany Home Road the boundary is 75th Avenue. Note that Independence Heights subdivision is now in the Ocotillo district. From Bethany Home Road to Camelback Road the boundary is 67th Avenue. Here is a map that shows the dividing lines between the Yucca district and the Ocotillo district:

Council is moving forward on remodeling the City Hall complex. It demonstrates our commitment to downtown Glendale. The exterior look of the buildings will be updated. The parking garage, long in need of major repairs, will be rehabilitated. The concept of offering free, live entertainment year round at the city amphitheater will continue in a newly reconfigured and updated area. Murphy Park will receive an update as well.

You may have noticed that I am the only councilmember to consistently vote ‘no’ on the city’s awarding of 5-year contracts to vendors of services and supplies. I do so for several reasons. A 5-year contract is longer than a city council term of office which is 4 years. That results in no continuity of oversight by the council. If a new councilmember comes in there is no knowledge of the existing contract or its terms or pricing. In addition, the contracts are often for ordinary goods or services and 5-year contracts for those items do not create a competitive atmosphere. Some say a 5-year contract is good because it locks in prices for 5 years even during inflationary periods such as now. Not so, quite a few contracts have come before us lately as amended seeking our approval for an increase. In all cases, the vendors are asking for increases to cover inflationary costs. So a 5-year contract does not lock in prices during the term of the contract. In addition, the same vendor who asked for a price increase, if prices decline, never, ever, comes back to offer the city an adjusted lower cost to reflect that decline. It’s all one way and always higher. I believe contracts should be no longer than 3 years and then put out for bid again.

Lastly, a few thoughts about the city owned Gila River Arena and the Coyotes. The city was not bluffing or positioning itself for a better lease deal with the Coyotes when it terminated the lease agreement. The city council has approved a contract with HKO to rehabilitate the arena. Deliberately moving from a sports venue to an entertainment venue requires a venue that is comfortable and welcoming to its attendees. After years of flaky ownership – Ellman, Moyes, LeBlanc, Barroway, etc., a consistently losing team and financial difficulties, it’s fair to say enough is enough. We wish the Coyotes well and harbor no ill will. It’s up to the Tempe city council to decide if they can do better. I would simply ask them to consider these questions: Does each member of the council believe there is a bond of trust between themselves and the current ownership group? Has Tempe’s staff done its due diligence, and can it demonstrate that the ownership group has the finances to invest into such a project? Will the ownership want financial contributions from the city of Tempe and does the city have the bond capacity for such a project? In an election year how will Tempe residents react to any deal that requires the city to spend taxpayer dollars for another sports arena in the Valley?

This new year will be interesting to say the least. Glendale is in the strongest financial position it has had for years. We will weather this inflationary period and come out on the other side, stronger and more resilient. We have the funds to expend on one-time projects that will benefit our citizens and create a better, more vibrant Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On December 3, 2021, the State of Arizona’s Department of Revenue (DOR) filed a tax lien against the Arizona Coyotes in the amount of $1.3 million with approximately $250,000 being owed to the City of Glendale for unpaid taxes. The tax lien states the team owes taxes as far back as June 2020 (that’s a year and a half). In the City of Glendale letter sent to Xavier Gutierrez, President and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes, advising the organization if payment on back taxes as well as monies owed to ASM Global, manager of the Gila River Arena, were not paid in full by close of business on December 20, 2021, not only would the organization be locked out of the building, but their Glendale business license would be terminated. See the correspondence below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This latest development should come as no surprise if you had read Katie Strang’s Athletic story, Dysfunction in the desert: Finger-pointing, fear and financial woes roil the Coyotes organization published in February 16, 2021. Here is the link: https://theathletic.com/2390146/2021/02/16/arizona-coyotes-investigation-toxic/ . Be forewarned, you must subscribe to the Athletic to read the full article.  It is well researched,   in-depth and a fascinating read. Ms. Strang also provides strong coverage of the organizations’ structural disfunction. Excerpts from her story referring to the organization’s past financial issues include the following:

  • “Meruelo’s acquisition of the Coyotes was supposed to portend a new era for the team. Instead, people within the organization and across the NHL are now wondering if the league erred in approving his purchase.”
  • “In April, the team announced it was furloughing half of its staff due to pandemic-related financial issues. In May, the Arizona Republic reported that promises to pay the arena’s part-time and hourly staff members had not been met. The team and arena management company, in response to the report, said they would ‘finalize our support plan that will be executed within the next 30 days’.”
  • “In September, The Athletic reported that a handful of players did not receive their signing bonuses on time.”
  • “The Athletic identified and spoke with eight vendors with whom the Coyotes had outstanding or past due balances or negotiated their debt to a lower amount.”
  • The Seyfarth Shaw law firm has been retained to investigate various allegations associated with the organization. “Among them, Seyfarth Shaw representatives have asked about:

           The accuracy of financial documents provided to third parties, such as banks and private  lenders, required to meet specific loan obligations. The accuracy of financial reports the organization sent to the league, which reflect team revenues and can potentially impact player salaries and the salary cap.”

It was Ms. Strang who broke the December 8, 2021, Athletic story regarding the Coyotes’ unpaid taxes. Here is the link: https://theathletic.com/news/coyotes-could-be-locked-out-of-home-arena-by-city-of-glendale-for-unpaid-arena-charges-delinquent-tax-bills/ArAVPFTj0LId/ . I imagine Garry Bettman’s (President of the National Hockey League) call to Mr. Meruelo, after the story broke about unpaid taxes was short and sweet…Pay those @#$%&* taxes now!

On December 9, 2021, the Coyotes organization issued the following statement saying they have launched an investigation to determine “how this could have happened.” In their press release they state, “Initial indications are that it appears to be the result of an unfortunate human error. Regardless, we deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused. We will make sure that by tomorrow morning, the Arizona Coyotes are current on all of our bills and owe no state or local taxes whatsoever. And we will take immediate steps to ensure that nothing like this can ever possibly happen again.”

If this sounds familiar, it should. According to Katie Strang’s February 16, 2021, article, when asked about paying players, “Gutierrez described both of these snafus as ‘process’ failures.”

Once again, Gutierrez seems to be pointing the finger at “process failures” implying it wasn’t deliberate but rather a glitch in the system. Maybe if it had happened once and in isolation with no background of financial questions it would be accepted as a plausible answer but there seems to be an ongoing pattern of “process failures.”

It is also no small matter to possibly lose the organization’s business license. It’s not just a matter of possibly being locked out but without a business license even if an alternate venue were found, it couldn’t be used without having a license to do business.

Today, December 9, 2021, the media is reporting that a short while ago, the Coyotes wired the entire amount to the State DOR. We do not know if they have also paid their arrears with ASM Global. I would advise Glendale to double check and to make sure all unpaid amounts are now current. One would expect no less considering the avalanche of negative publicity they generated yesterday and today.

I suspect there is more to the Arizona Coyotes’ story that will have to unfold shortly. Right now, the most pressing issue is meeting the NHL’s schedule deadline to submit the team’s play dates and their location to the League by a January, 2022 date. This early date is because the League has to juggle all teams’ schedules and craft a League schedule that satisfies all.

Forget the possibility of a new arena in Tempe. The immediate and most critical question is where will the Coyotes play while waiting 3 to 5 years for a new arena? That is, IF Tempe accepts their RFP. The only word coming out of Tempe is that they are doing extensive due diligence.

I have found over the years that a deal is best crafted when both parties can trust each other. That may be the most seminal question that Tempe will have to decide. Can they trust the Coyotes to be good, reliable financial partners?

Let me make clear, the City of Glendale is done with the Coyotes. Their absolute refusal to negotiate a long-term, 20 year lease simply made the City’s decision clear. They will not be playing in Glendale for their 2022-23 season or in any future season. That door is closed.

While Glendale has no interest in where they play in the future, I think it’s fun to speculate and the rest of this blog is pure speculation. It is not based in fact or any insider knowledge.

The only viable location is the Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Keep in mind pursing this location as a temporary venue is dependent upon Tempe’s awarding the RFP to the Coyotes. Then it would make some sense to pursue a lease of the Coliseum. My guess it’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether Tempe accepts the Coyotes’ RFP. What if Tempe declines to award the Coyotes an RFP? For many that is an unthinkable outcome, but it is possible. If that were to happen, there would be no need of a temporary location and I would imagine a sale of the team would be imminent. This is the only play the Coyotes have. Forget all other locations. Each has a solid reason to be unworkable.

Here are the problems with the Coliseum. It’s now December, 2021. The work and the expense involved in renovating the building are extensive and even if work on the building started tomorrow, it is doubtful the building would be ready in a mere 10 months in time for the new season in October of 2022.

According to a recent Craig Morgan story of December 8, 2021, entitled Back to the future: Coliseum makes most sense as Coyotes’ interim arena solution, he, too, thinks the only temporary solution for the Coyotes is the Coliseum. Craig Morgan has always been very friendly and supportive of the Coyotes’ ownership over the years. One can speculate that he has sources within the organization and he is reflective of their thinking process.

The Coliseum has major structural problems. The building needs a need roof, new flooring and an additional ice plant for starters. Even with a new roof it can not accommodate a centrally hung scoreboard. There are no suites and maximum attendance would be in the 13,000 to 14,000 range. If the Coyotes do use the building they will continue to bleed financially.

I had heard that it would cost $40 to $50 million to get the building in shape for hockey but Morgan, in his article, cites a construction expert who said a more realistic number is in the $100 million range.

If Tempe awards the RFP to the Coyotes everything becomes a political calculation from that point forward. We can speculate that the Coyotes will go to Governor Doug Ducey and ask to rent the building (maybe for $1 a year?) and having a great deal of Chutzpah, demand that the state pay the cost of renovating the building for them…and, oh, by the way, you have 10 months to do so. Here’s where it really gets political. Ducey is a lame duck Governor, termed out. There are rumors that he intends to run for the U.S. Senate. He will have to make a political calculation as to how such action would play with his voter base. While he might win the support of 17,000 to 20,000 Coyotes fans there are far more voters that would not take kindly to any kind of financial give away to yet another sports franchise using taxpayer dollars. It could become the albatross that makes him unelectable.

The next few months will be very interesting as we watch this play out. My personal take is that the Coyotes will be sold. Alex Meruelo has become a liability to the NHL and especially to Gary Bettman.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In parts I and II we looked at the proposed Coyotes project and its funding as well as the stipulations that would be imposed by the FAA. In this part we look at the major hurdles to be overcome.

The first challenge for the Coyotes’ proposed development is that of the mechanism for the repayment of the 30-year, $200 million worth of bonds through a Community Facilities District (CFD) and Government Property Excise Lease Tax (GPLET) Both of these mechanisms are legitimate and have been used by cities throughout the Valley. The Coyotes have said the bulk of the repayment relies upon sales tax generated on the site. In the city’s negotiations with the Coyotes, just one of the issues to be resolved will be who pays any outstanding balance of the annual repayment of principal and interest on the bonds if the sales tax fails to generate the full annual amount needed. Will Muerelo cover it or will he expect Tempe to cover it?

The second challenge, and a major one at that, is the question of Tempe’s taxpayers’ support of the sales tax generated to be used to pay off bonds designed to support another sports venue in the Valley. The assumption by many is that Tempe taxpayers would rather see this development’s sales tax used for city uses that can be enjoyed the general public.

Data Orbital conducted a statewide poll on August 30-31, 2021. Here is the link to their findings: https://www.dataorbital.com/the-blog/taxpayers-icy-at-thought-of-paying-for-a-new-arizona-coyotes-arena . The results summarized are:

  • Voters support for funding a new Coyotes arena

No  47.7% / Yes  39.0% / Undecided  12.7%                                                                  

  • Voters support for using Covid relief funds for a new arena

Democrat:   No  84.4% / Yes  12.3%    Republican:  No   80.2% / Yes  17.0%    Independent:  No  79.0% / Yes  16.1%                                                                  

  • Voters support for elected officials who use taxpayer money for a new arena

Less likely to support  60.4% / More likely to support  29.1% / Undecided  9.6%

I happened to talk to a zoning development professional recently. This person held a meeting in Tempe to gauge neighborhood support on a project that had nothing to do with a new Coyotes arena. Even though the development had no connection to or relationship to the proposed arena, all the Tempe citizens wanted to talk about was their opposition to a new Coyotes arena. Admittedly, this is anecdotal, but it may very well express the level of support among Tempe residents.

The third major challenge is the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) specific height limitations for the site as well as the city of Phoenix’s objection to the proposed residential apartment complexes planned to be built directly in the path of Sky Harbor’s runways. Historically, the FAA’s height limitation drove a proposed Cardinals’ stadium to seek another location. Could the same be true for the Coyotes?

If the Coyotes accede to the FAA’s requirements as well as Phoenix’s prohibition on residential for the site that would require the project to be redesigned as well as scaled back considerably. Does it continue to pencil out in terms of repayment of the $200 million in bonds? Keep in mind that the Coyotes said they anticipate the “bulk” of the bond repayment would rely upon sales tax. Tempe should take a very close look at this issue.

The fourth challenge is if Tempe decides to award this RFP to the Coyotes the arena probably won’t be ready until 2024 or 2025. In the meantime, where will they play? Obviously, it won’t be in Glendale. There has been a lot of speculation about using Phoenix’s Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

There is no way that Phoenix can craft an exclusive deal with the Coyotes. Keep in mind that this is a taxpayer funded, public facility. If I remember correctly, the state also has a financial stake in the coliseum. As such Phoenix would have to issue an RFP for the coliseum just as Tempe did for its vacant site. Rather than receiving only one response to its RFP as occurred in Tempe, expect multiple responses for the coliseum.

It would take time to do a thorough review of all responses before an award could be made. Could all of this be done by next season? Your guess is as good as mine but as the clock keeps ticking, it seems unlikely.  In addition, the coliseum would require major renovation plus chillers to make ice. All of the renovative work takes time and money. The best guess currently is that it would take about $40 or $50 million to renovate and at least 6 to 8 months to do so after any award is made. Add that to the Coyotes’ announced investment of $1.2 billion for its proposed development in Tempe.

So far, there has been no RFP issued for the coliseum.

 

 

 

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In part I we looked at the scope of the proposed project and how the Coyotes plan to finance their development.

There is another element to consider regarding the Coyotes’ proposed project and that is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Does anyone remember that the Cardinals in 2001 wanted to locate their 198-foot-tall stadium in the same general area? Twenty years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an opinion the Cardinals’ stadium site would be a “hazard to air navigation” as planned. To accommodate the FAA, their plans would have to be drastically reduced and would have generated a lot less revenue. In the end, it just didn’t pencil out and the Cardinals Stadium was built in Glendale.

“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana in 1905.

Here is the link to a story by Brandon Brown dated September 22, 2021 that relates issues raised by the FAA:  https://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2021/09/22/sky-harbor-concerns-over-coyotes-tempe-arena.html .

Sky Harbor is one of the most significant economic assets of the state of Arizona. Twenty years ago, the FAA’s objections to the proposed height of the Cardinals’ stadium led to the withdrawal of the project from the Tempe site. In the years since 2001, Sky Harbor has grown with even more activity than ever. The imperative to protect it has only become stronger. The proposed site is only 10,000 feet from the end of the runway. That may sound like a lot of space but in terms of jet taking off or landing, it’s virtually nothing.

Chad Makovsky, director of Aviation Services for the city of Phoenix, in a very recent letter sent to the Coyotes raised several concerns. Makovsky said if the hockey arena is built, it offers “unique and significant challenges that may impair or altogether limit capacity at Sky Harbor.”

“In particular, Makovsky pointed out the proposed 1,600 apartments across multiple 12-story towers. He said that Sky Harbor, as an FAA-sponsored airport, and the city of Phoenix, which owns the airport, are obligated to oppose any residential development in that area of Tempe. ‘That’s an issue we’re going to have to stand firm on,’ Makovsky said. ‘Sixteen-hundred residential units right on departure path, I just don’t know what they were thinking. I don’t know why you would want to put residential units right off the end of two of the busiest runways in the state of Arizona.’”

Makovsky raised two more issues related to the proposed project. One was possible pilot distraction with the intensity on the site created by the of use of lights, digital screens/billboards, lasers or fireworks.

The other is the proposed 140 foot height of buildings when the FAA has mandated heights no greater than 100 feet. Tempe did recognize this fact and in its RFP required that any proposed development must meet FAA regulations or obtain a waiver from the FAA. Makovsky also noted that this project will take several years to build during which period construction cranes taller than the proposed 140 foot building height will be used.

The Coyotes and Tempe will need to see if the project remains viable without the residential component and with the remainder of the buildings being scaled down to meet the 100 foot height limitation. How much of the project could be removed and still remain viable in earning enough sales tax revenue to actually pay off the bonds?

That brings me to my blog, part III. In it, I will discuss the serious challenges posed for the Coyotes at this site as well as the Veteran’s Coliseum in Phoenix.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In this 3-part series of blogs I examine the Coyotes’ response to the city of Tempe’s Request for Proposal (RFP) in their effort to secure a permanent playing site in the East Valley.

On September 20, 2021, Pauline Pineda authored an exclusive look at the Coyote’s proposal. Here is the link:  https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe/2021/09/20/arizona-coyotes-reveal-proposal-for-new-arena-entertainment-district-tempe/8376362002/ .

Let’s begin with the first fact. Ms. Pineda states the site is “46 acres on the south bank of the Salt River that previously were used as a sand and gravel mining operation and a dump.” In comparison, Glendale’s Westgate Sports and Entertainment district is a 223-acre site. The Coyotes’ proposed site is roughly 20% or 1/5 the size of Westgate.

The second fact is their proposal in Phase I calls for, “300,000 square feet of commercial space, 320,000 square feet of office space, 1,600 residential units and two hotels.” It includes a 16,000-seat arena, a 1,500-seat theater, a commercial district, a 200-room boutique hotel, offices, and a 12-story apartment complex of 180 units. Their Phase II includes more than 1,500 apartment units in three apartment complexes 12 stories tall, a convention-style hotel with 300 rooms and additional retail and office space.

By way of comparison, Westgate currently has 8,000,000 square feet of mixed-use development that includes shopping, dining, entertainment, high-end condominiums, parks, and office space. Westgate has 5 hotels, convention space, 35 restaurants, and 3 apartment complexes. It has something else that cannot be replicated on the Coyotes’ proposed site…Tanger Outlets with nearly 80 retail shops. Their proposal sounds an awful lot like a mini-Westgate. No matter how much they try to stuff into those 46 acres, it will not generate the magnitude of sales tax generated by Westgate.

Here’s another fact to consider. There is a basketball arena that has just broken ground in Inglewood, California. It is where Steve Ballmer’s NBA Clippers will play beginning in 2024-25. It’s called the Intuit Dome and is expected to cost $1.8 billion to construct and you can be sure there will be cost overruns. To sweeten the deal, Mr. Ballmer will be donating $100 million to the city of Inglewood, funding job training, worker outreach, educational programs, and a rehabilitation of the Inglewood community center and library. It appears to be a project that Ballmer can easily afford (even with donations and cost overruns) as his net worth is pegged at $101 billion.

No one can guess at how successful Muerelo will be in obtaining additional investors. Keep in mind his net worth is reported to be $2 billion. It is certainly possible that he could end up using half of his net worth to develop his project. By way of contrast Bullmer can easily afford a $2 billion price tag to build new digs for his team and still have lots and lots of money left over. Bullmer is using his own money and Muerelo is relying on investor funding and sales tax to cover his proposed project.

 Fact number 3 looks at the proposed financial mechanisms for financing the project. What are the estimated costs for the Coyotes’ proposed project and how do they plan to pay for it? They are “proposing a $1.7 billion development in Tempe with a hockey arena, hotels, apartments and shops that the team says would be financed by private investors, although it wants to use a portion of city sales tax revenues generated on the site to help pay for $200 million in additional costs.”

They are asking Tempe to establish a “Community Facilities District, that would sell special assessment revenue bonds to raise $120 million for the east parcel and $80 million for the west parcel.  The bonds would be issued in phases to pay for projects as they get underway.”

“The proposal would repay the bonds over 30 years from three revenue sources:

  • A portion of the city sales taxes generated on the site and parking revenue. Tempe’s sales tax rate is 1.8%, with 0.6% designated for specific priorities such as art and transportation. The proposal is to use all but the designated sales tax funds generated on the site (1.2% of Tempe’s sales tax).
  • Up to a 6% surcharge on retail sales, including ticket, merchandise, and concession sales at the arena.
  • Real estate tax assessments on the property.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The team did not say how much each source would contribute to the bond repayment but said sales taxes would make up the bulk of the pot.”

Note that one of the repayment mechanisms proposed to pay off the 30-year bonds is real estate tax assessments on the property. Yet the Coyotes also seek a property tax abatement by transferring ownership of the land to Tempe and then leasing the land back for a fee through the use of a GPLET (Government Property Excise Lease Tax). The non-arena portions of the project such as the retail, office and apartments could have up to 8 years of property tax exemption. The arena and practice facility are allowed to have a longer tax exemption which is subject to negotiation. In essence, the real estate tax assessments would be negligible for a period of years.

No one knows what will be Tempe taxpayers’ appetite for using sales tax generated on the site.  After all, Tempe taxpayers will want whatever development that occurs on the site to generate sales tax to be used in their best interest not to help pay for yet another sports complex in the Valley. In today’s economy with inflation soaring, the very mention of using sales tax to help pay for a sports complex will not be an easy sell.

In part II of my blog we’ll take a look at how the Federal Aviation Administration may affect this proposed development.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

There is more practical and factual information that comprised Glendale’s business decision to decline to renew the agreement with the Coyotes.

Perhaps the most important reason driving Glendale’s decision is the fact that the 18-year-old arena is due for face lift. If you have attended a game at the Cardinals Stadium, you would be aware that for the past few years the Cardinals and AZSTA have invested in upgrading the stadium making a more comfortable and accessible fan experience. The stadium these days is truly amazing, and the fans love the new look and the new accommodations.

The city is planning for the future of the arena. Should it renovate the arena to accommodate the Coyotes’ fan experience when Alex Meruelo is insistent on a short-term lease arrangement of 3 to 5 years? Does that make sense? Where is the cost benefit to the city in doing so? There is none. 

With the Coyotes gone and a renewed emphasis on concerts and other events over the next 20 years, the configuration of the arena can be designed to accommodate the concert and event goers experience. In other words, the arena upgrades would be designed one way for sports fans and a totally different way for concert and event attendees.

That is why when the city began to negotiate with the Coyotes ownership a year ago its goal was to obtain a long-term lease of 18 to 20 years. If the city were to upgrade the arena to accommodate fans it needed the assurance of a long-term lease. Unfortunately, the ownership group made clear that they were only interested in a 3-to-5-year lease time frame.

Decisions regarding an upgrade to the arena are critical. That is why Glendale did not make its decision regarding the Coyotes agreement lightly and without consulting our partners and stakeholders or looking critically at the economic facts.

Another reason is related to historical revenue sharing agreements with every Coyotes ownership group. To retain the team and to assist with their financial viability, the Coyotes retain nearly all of the revenue generated by games. The team historically has kept all the revenue earned from naming rights for the arena and parking revenues. Their rental payment was extremely generous and arguably one of the best deals in the country.

The Applied Economics study says per capita, the Coyotes generate $28 per game in spending as opposed to a concert where the per capita is $58 and another event per capita is $35. Coyotes’ fans tend to stay inside the arena and buy food, etc., within it. Due to the Coyotes revenue sharing agreements, the city earns very little revenue on purchases inside the arena and none on parking or naming rights. On the other hand, concert and event attendees often dine in Westgate before a concert or event or may book an overnight stay at a Westgate hotel. There are no revenue constraints and therefore the tax revenues earned by the city are greater.

I’ve related why Westgate and the city have come of age. Both entities see an even more exciting future ahead. Reliance upon the Coyotes to keep Westgate financially viable is no longer a reality. I’ve also related the history of the Coyotes ownerships. A turnover of 6 different entities with differing agendas and a historical lack of partnership with the city made the situation extremely difficult during the past 18 years.

The decision to decline renewal of the agreement was a reasoned one based upon sound economic data and the need to make critical decisions regarding the arena’s future use.  Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, still believes our decision is strictly a negotiating ploy to get more money from any deal. Someone should be whispering in his ear that nothing could be further from reality. The city’s decision is final. I wish the Coyotes much luck and success in their future endeavors.

There is one more thought that I want to share, and it is this. Over 18 years the City of Glendale has demonstrated, with financial investments, its commitment to keeping the Coyotes in the State of Arizona. We invested $185 million in the construction of the arena. For goodness’ sake, we paid the NHL $50 million to keep the Coyotes in Arizona while it searched for a new owner. Over the 18 years the city has invested about $307 million keeping the Coyotes in Arizona — with no help…from the state, the county or any other entity in the region. We did it alone. We put skin in the game – literally.

As Arizona Republic sports columnist Kent Somers said, When is the last time you heard of a city kicking a sports franchise out of the house?”

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The very first owner of the Coyotes to land in Glendale was Steve Ellman. Ellman bought the team from Richard Burke in 2001. How did Ellman end up in Glendale for he dearly wanted to be in Scottsdale? When Scottsdale rejected the idea, Ellman went shopping, looking for cheap land for his grand vision of a hockey arena to be surrounded by commercial/retail to compliment the arena. I remember at the time, early 2000s, staff indicated to city council that they wanted to show Ellman the old Valley West Mall parcel at 59th Avenue and Northern Avenue as a possible site. Council gave the go-ahead. Staff took him on a helicopter ride over Glendale. When Ellman saw the Valley West Mall site he said it would never work because the arterial roads would not be able to handle the anticipated traffic. On that same fateful visit he saw all of the agricultural land adjacent to the Loop 101 and said that was his preference for a site.

When staff reported back to council with Ellman’s feedback, I was aghast. I was not supportive of a hockey arena in Glendale. In an effort to perhaps kill the deal, I insisted that Ellman be tied to Valley West Mall in a redevelopment project. I thought he would balk and walk away. I was wrong. He agreed to redevelop Valley West Mall and did so. The hockey arena would be built.

Ellman never engaged with Glendale or worked to develop a real relationship as a partner. Who knows why? I don’t. The city tried to engage him, but nothing ever developed. Ellman was very successful in booking major recording artists into the arena during his ownership tenure. I remember in particular, seeing Bette Midler, among others, perform there in the arena’s early years.

Jerry Moyes, Swift Trucking Company owner, became the team’s second owner when Ellman sold the team to him in 2005.  Moyes, a businessman, appeared to many observers, to take little interest in the team. There were also rumors that he was reluctant to invest in the team. He, too, never engaged with Glendale to build a mutually successful partnership. In 2008, Moyes declared bankruptcy and after a yearlong legal battle, the NHL took ownership of the team in 2008, according to bankruptcy court documents.

In essence, the NHL became the team’s 3rd owner in the space of 8 years. The NHL was merely a caretaker for the team while they desperately tried to acquire a new owner. I remember there were 4 or 5 entities in the race to buy the team. The one that impressed me the most was Greg Jamison. He was a true gentleman and eager to create that long missing partnership with Glendale. He had tons of hockey knowledge and experience due to his many years with the San Jose Sharks. He knew what it would take to put a good team on the ice. He put together a consortium of investors willing to invest their own money rather than saddle themselves with enormous debt but unfortunately, he was out maneuvered by one Anthony LeBlanc, one of Jamison’s very own investors and soon to become the new owner.

The 4th owners became Ice Arizona, led by George Gosbee/Anthony LeBlanc in 2013. The trouble with this ownership group was money. LeBlanc et. al., used very little of their own.  They borrowed nearly all the purchase price from various institutions and even got a loan of $70 million from the NHL. They were always cash poor. To observers it appeared as if they were a group of guys who got together to acquire a new play toy. They seemed to revel in owning a hockey franchise but when it came to creating a great product on the ice, they were not very adept. Again, no partnership with Glendale ever developed.

Andrew Barroway was one of the original Ice Arizona partners. By 2016, he acquired a majority interest in ownership and became the 5th owner of the Coyotes. I never met Mr. Barroway and I’m not sure anyone on city council ever met him either. I have no idea as to whether he was good or bad for the team. But, again, no partnership with the city ever developed. He seems to have been an absentee owner.

Which leads us to the latest and 6th owner of the Coyotes. In 2019, Alex Meruelo bought the team. I have never met Mr. Meruelo and only know that he is a successful businessman. From the day of his purchase he has publicly stated, along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, that Glendale will not be a part of the Coyotes future and he planned to actively pursue a new location. Obviously, there has been no development of a partnership with the city.

How does the Coyotes saga of ownership compare with other Valley Sports teams? Here’s a graphic that depicts the string of ownerships of all of our teams:

The multiple ownerships in Coyotes history would appear to play a significant part in its ability to become a successful team. A string of different owners with their own agendas did nothing to stabilize the team and to create a successful product on the ice.

I, and the city, harbor no ill will toward Mr. Meruelo. He has made what he believes to be his best business decision to create a successful team. I respect that. In my next blog, I will comment on why retaining the Coyotes is not the best business model for Glendale.

The long-held myth has always been that Glendale was not a good site because the fan base is in the East Valley. I don’t necessarily buy into the myth. If that were the case, the Cardinals would never successfully fill their stadium, game after game.

I remember attending a West Valley economic summit years ago. The one comment made by the featured speaker, Elliot Pollack, a well-respected Arizona economist, was that Glendale was destined to become the geographic center of the Valley. As each year passes, this concept comes closer and closer to reality. West Valley cities, such as Buckeye, Avondale, Litchfield Park, Surprise and Peoria are all experiencing population explosions. At some point, the West Valley’s population will surpass that of the East Valley’s. That appears to be coming to fruition now. As the media have reported, Buckeye and Goodyear are both among the 10 fastest-growing cities in the United States. Buckeye has grown faster than any city in the country as its population grew in the last decade by 80%. There is the potential explosion of a fan base in the West Valley, but a team must work to cultivate it. All the team’s past owners failed to do so.

Another concept never fully appreciated is that we are primarily a population that moved here from somewhere else. I came from New Jersey. Over the years, I have overwhelmingly met “transplants” as opposed to native Arizonans. We came here with team favorites already encoded into our DNA and it’s difficult to embrace a new team as one’s favorite, especially when there is no compelling reason to do so.

We are “fair weather fans.” What would constitute a compelling reason to become an avid fan? It’s pretty obvious. A good team…a winning team. Witness the Suns and their recent run for the basketball championship. Everyone wanted to attend a game and tickets were selling like hotcakes at exorbitant prices. Every time the Coyotes were in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup, the fans came out selling out the arena and the “White Out” was born. There was no talk of East Valley fans vs. West Valley fans.

I am not trying to sell the notion of the Coyotes remaining in Glendale. That ship has sailed. It is not in our best business interest for the Coyotes to remain and the city has stated repeatedly that its decision is not a negotiating ploy. I just wanted to highlight other factors that are contributory to poor attendance.

The old saying, “build it and they will come” is still a valid statement but with a jaded society with so many entertainment choices, it’s incumbent upon every sports team to create a compelling reason for a consumer to spend what is often a great deal of money to attend a sporting event. The Coyotes, under a series of confusing ownerships, never created a compelling reason to become an avid hockey fan.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The Coyotes Press Release issued on Thursday, August 19, 2021, stated, We are hopeful that they (Glendale) will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale.” It appears to be a veiled reference to Westgate’s businesses and seems to infer that they will suffer mightily with the loss of 42 Coyotes games per season.

It’s time to look back at the history of Westgate. It’s only rationale for existence in 2003 was the deliberate development by the city of Glendale’s hockey arena. When it opened in 2003, it was surrounded by a sea of vacant land, some of it was still agricultural. Fans came to the arena for the games and left immediately after the games because there was nothing for them to do or experience.

Steve Ellman failed to develop any of the adjacent commercial/retail for 2 years. It wasn’t until 2006, limited development opened with a few restaurants. Westgate, now in its infancy, began to grow and take shape. The Cardinals Stadium, Cabela’s, the AMC Theater and a few restaurants also opened in that year. Followed a year later, 2007, by the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. This is what the early Westgate looked like.

By 2012 Ellman could not weather the aftereffects of the economic storm and shed himself of Westgate as it went into bankruptcy. One of institutions that had loaned him the money for the project, IStar, took over Westgate.

Back then, the arena and stadium were the anchor tenants that kept the nascent Westgate afloat especially through the national recession that ended in 2009. Even though the recession officially ended in 2009, everyone, including Westgate felt its effects for several more years. IStar, as a major lending institution, held on to this property knowing its future potential. It did a credible job of keeping Westgate intact and growing. Since 2012, iStar had executed over 50 retail and office leases totaling in excess of 260,000 square feet, converted two floors of vacant office space into 76 luxury loft-style residential units, and brought to the district multiple new entertainment options including Dave & Busters and Tavern+Bowl.

Tanger Outlet Mall opened in 2012 and everything changed. iStar partnered with Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. to build the successful 400,000 square foot Tanger Outlets, Westgate. Tanger with its nearly 90 stores became the catalyst for more restaurants landing in Westgate for there are no restaurants within Tanger. Tanger patrons began crossing 95th Avenue to eat at Westgate’s restaurants. More restaurants located in Westgate as a result. Tanger Outlets was the beginning of less reliance on Coyotes games to keep Westgate alive.

In 2018, Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder, bought Westgate for $133 million. Parsons said at the time of purchase, The potential at Westgate is huge. Westgate currently offers visitors a wide variety of entertainment options, but we’re looking to develop features that will entice even more visitors and residents to this unique and vibrant Valley location.”

In the past four years, due to Bob Parsons and his team (YAM Properties), Westgate has become even more vibrant with 38 restaurants, hotels, condos, apartments, and office space. It has become an economic powerhouse in the state and where businesses want to locate. Coming next to Dave & Buster’s will be Tiger Woods’ Pop Golf and Tesla has built a service center on the south side of Glendale Avenue. Some of the long tenured tenants, despite learning that the Coyotes are leaving, remain enthusiastic about investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrading their venues. They know there is more to Westgate than the Coyotes and that more exciting development is coming before the Super Bowl in 2023.

YAM has done an exceptional marketing job for Westgate. Everyone in the Valley knows of Westgate. On any given night you can find some kind of activity in and around Westgate. Westgate is truly a sports and entertainment district.

Just to reemphasize how well Westgate is doing, this week in the Business Journal there was an article about the 7 new businesses coming to Westgate:

  • The Tesla Service Center will offer remote diagnostics, pre-diagnosed repairs and a retail showroom for model vehicles
  • Tacos Culichi, a popular Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, will open another location near Sunrise Boulevard.
  • First Watch is an American restaurant chain that offers a mix of breakfast, brunch and lunch classics. 
  • Bruster’s Ice Cream, another American chain, will open its third Arizona location at the district next to the Aloft Hotel. 
  • Pokitrition, a local shop, serves customizable poke bowls and sushi burritos. 
  • PopStroke Entertainment, which is owned by golf legend Tiger Woods and Greg Bartoli, announced plans to open in the Westgate Entertainment District. 
  • Cupbop, opened at the northeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hanna Lane in the entertainment district,
  • NakedQ BBQ, a barbecue joint, opened its third Valley location at Westgate

As reported in the Business Journal, “Oren Hartman, the owner of the NakedQ BBQ and head pit boss, said he’s looked at moving to the area for years, but decided the timing was right with ‘all the great growth out here’. He went on to say, ‘With the continued growth and population out here, with the commitment from YAM and Westgate to keep building up and making the facility better, and just to be around some world-class tenants, those were all the main reasons that we came over’.”

In a previous statement as part of the city’s Press Release, Dan Dahl said he supports the city’s decision to end negotiations with the Coyotes. The Business Journal received further comment from Mr. Dahl, “Westgate is not solely dependent on sports programming and the announcement doesn’t take away the endless potential we have to offer the area,” he said in an email on Tuesday. “Several of our tenants, including many restaurants, are experiencing increased activity and strong sales numbers every night of the week. Many even exceed pre-Covid numbers despite the events and activities still coming back slowly.” 

Perhaps the most consequential development scheduled to open in the Fall of 2023 is the Crystal Island Lagoon Resort located at 95th Avenue and Cardinals Way in the Westgate footprint. With its 3 hotels, 7 specialty retail islands, a 12-acre lagoon for public use, Mattel Amusement Park and much, much more it is anticipated to attract between 2 and 5 million visitors in its first year.

Westgate has grown up as has the City of Glendale. The city commissioned an economic study of the fiscal impact of Westgate with the Coyotes and without the Coyotes (replacing the team dates with other major events). The Applied Economics report revealed that, “In terms of spending at Westgate only (outside the arena) it would take approximately 20 additional concerts or large other events (with attendance of 10,000+) to equal the same amount of sales tax revenues to the city as 43 Coyotes games.”

Another important element of the Applied Economics study revealed was a comparison of per capita spending for a Coyotes game vs. a concert vs. another event. Per capita, the Coyotes generate $28 per game. A concert per capita is $58 and another event per capita is $35.

Currently, discounting last year which was severely impacted by Covid, the arena already books about 10 – 12 major events a year. With the Coyotes no longer consuming 42+ days (game days and practice days), there is confidence that an additional 20 days of major events can be booked. Keep in mind, the Coyotes actually tie up 200 days a year. Let me take a moment to explain what that means to the arena. In the fall, arena management must submit to the NHL 200 open days during which games can be scheduled there. However, the NHL doesn’t post its league schedule until the following spring at which time the arena finally learns which 42 game days must be preserved. Imagine trying to book other events when 200 days are in limbo for 6 months of the year.

When the Coyotes claim that their departure “would primarily damage the small businesses,” that is no longer an accurate statement. Like Pinocchio, their nose continues to grow longer and longer.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I want to emphasize that these comments reflect my position and do not represent the position of the city council as a whole or that of senior management.

I have received many queries about Glendale’s recent announcement and I wanted to take the opportunity of posting in my blog to share my position on the issue.

On Thursday, August 19, 2021, Glendale issued a Press Release announcing that it would not renew its year-to-year agreement for use of its arena by the Coyotes. Both parties have been operating under a year-to-year agreement for several years. Within the agreement is the stipulation that either party can decide not to renew the agreement for an additional year by providing written notice each year on or before December 31st. Glendale has provided notice to the Coyotes that it has declined to renew this year-to-year agreement. This means that the upcoming season will be the last in our arena, and they must vacate the facility by June 30, 2021.  As a courtesy the city provided notice before December to allow the Coyotes as much time as possible to realign their future.

I have been on city council for over 20 years, during the long and tortuous history of the Coyotes. I was there when the city built the arena. I was there when the city paid the NHL to manage the team for 2 years to keep the team in the state.  Over the years I have supported the Coyotes through 5 different ownerships because I believed they were necessary for the financial vitality of a fledgling Westgate area. I know that Glendale, time and again, took action that kept the Coyotes in Arizona for the past 18 years. Glendale has proven its historical commitment to the Coyotes.

For me, my reasoning is based on a sound, business decision. I am guided by what is best, at this time, for Glendale and its 253,000 residents. This impactful decision was not made hastily or in a vacuum. Input was sought from key stakeholders, the city’s expert economist and our arena management firm. In fact, there will be a positive budgetary impact to the arena and the city with no hockey team or hockey operations taking place.

I bear no animus toward the team or its ownership. In fact, I wish them good luck and much success in their future. They, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, have repeatedly said they have no future remaining in Glendale and I concur. They believe they will regain their financial health by playing somewhere other than Glendale. That is their belief and their choice.

Westgate has come of age. I believe the Westgate area is successful in its own right. There are limitless and wonderful opportunities for the Sports & Entertainment area turning it into an even greater powerhouse, unparalleled in the Valley. That is my belief and guides my choice.

In 20 years, the Westgate area has grown and matured, earning its present success. Westgate’s Sports & Entertainment District has never been more financially healthy than it is right now. More than a billion dollars of investment has occurred during the past three years. Witness the Crystal Lagoon Island Resort project, Tiger Woods’ Pop Golf project and Tesla’s project. Economic development is booming in the area at an unprecedented level. Over the next year, the city will be announcing many new projects coming to this area. In addition, long time commercial tenants in the area are planning on updating and refreshing their venues.  They know that Westgate is integral to their success. There is a tremendous sense of optimism throughout the area.

Westgate Entertainment District/Yam properties issued the following in support of Glendale’s decision, “The City of Glendale has been a great partner for us, and we support its decisions regarding the arena, said Dan Dahl, Director of Real Estate for YAM properties.”

It’s time to split the blanket. The Coyotes have wanted to do so for several years. Glendale now realizes that it is in their best business interest to agree.

In the coming week I will offer more commentary on this event. Stay tuned.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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