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Arizona has a chance to reject the Coyotes once and for all | Defector

The Arizona Coyotes’ first games at Mullett Arena were disappointing, at least for one viewer. The small space the team has been forced to share with Arizona State University since being kicked out of their last arena in Glendale is below average for an NHL team in many ways, including the the need for a locker room annex, the fact that ASU gets the first dibs on scheduling and, oh yes, a capacity of 4,600 people, less than a third of what the next smallest team can handle. (Ironically, that team is in Winnipeg, the city scorned by this franchise to launch its Southwest hockey experiment.) But on the ice, as captured by the cameras, a game on the campus of the ASU doesn’t seem that different from a game in San Jose, or Anaheim, or anywhere else where a bad team is working hard in front of a disappointing crowd. Mullett misses his top half, basically, but it’s still a regulation rink with seats around it. If you didn’t know, it would take some time to spot its shortcomings.

The problem with Mullett, really, isn’t that it’s a backstage shack unfit for the honor and privilege of hosting National Hockey League games. Trouble is, this obviously stop-gap solution was forced to be much more than just a couch the Coyotes crashed on for a few months. The franchise is committed to being there for three years, with an option for a fourth, as they still don’t know where they’re going next. Long after the novelty wears off and curious visitors tire of the team’s uniquely lethargic style of play, the Yotes will still be stuck in a home where they can truly meet the gaze of every Midwestern retiree in attendance. That the franchise has retreated to such a long-term disadvantage is a testament to both decades of mismanagement and the league’s stubborn insistence that hockey continue to be played in a seething monument to arrogance. of man.

But for those worried about the feelings of billionaire owner Alex Meruelo, who took over the team in 2019, there is a dim light at the end of a long tunnel. The Coyotes are determined to dump those college years and eventually find themselves in a gleaming new building that will be part of a Tempe Entertainment District project. Currently a landfill with 1.5 million tons of trash, Meruelo and his allies have been pushing for a $2.1 billion development that would replace it with the team’s 4,787 pounds of trash, plus a theater, houses and some hotels. Gary Bettman is so excited about the proposal that he has promised to bring an All-Star Game Where a draft in Tempe if he passes. Wow!

This idea cleared a very low hurdle on Tuesday night, when the Tempe City Council unanimously approved it, but what happens next will be very, very interesting. The Coyotes will now collect signatures from Tempe residents to get the proposal on the ballot for a local referendum scheduled for May 16. If voters approve, the team will breathe a sigh of relief, feeling their ASU detour was a worthy sacrifice. But if they don’t… well, summers in Quebec are much nicer, anyway.

The history of stadium funding in Arizona is a thorny one to say the least. The public cost of the Diamondbacks ballpark caused a massive outcry as the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved a sales tax increase in 1994 while circumventing the wishes of county residents, two-thirds of whom are residents. are opposed to it; a man convicted of attempted murder for shooting county overseer Mary Rose Wilcox as she left a meeting in 1997 cited the tax as the motive. Around the same time, the Cardinals’ attempt to get the football stadium out of ASU with a sales tax hike in 1999 failed decisively, and a back-up plan to fund a new stadium with hotel and car rental taxes barely creaked the following year. The Great Recession helped cause some serious headaches with this method of funding, and the former Phoenix mayor went on to say how proud he was that his city used what could have been a football field for this which became the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

Proponents of the new Coyotes project argue that the public burden in this case is much smaller than the worst stadium mess. Here, the literal money spent is around $200 million to take the garbage there and put it elsewhere, which, as the team is quick to note, the city should do anyway. way if they wanted to use that land for any type of new development. As site friend Neil deMause points out to Field of Schemes, however, some calculations on the back of the envelope put the tax subsidies at around $500 million, not including the opportunity cost of whatever might be done with this site instead. Add that massive tax break for Meruelo, plus the often unfulfilled promises of these arena “entertainment districts,” plus the general apathy for the Coyotes, plus further opposition to proposed Phoenix Sky Harbor airport residencies in due to flight path issues, and voters will have a much more complicated choice than the Coyotes want them to believe.

That the public money spent here is something much less tangible to ordinary people than a sales tax hike certainly works in the team’s favor, and Meruelo’s deep pockets will no doubt allow him to push. continuously and noisily the most idyllic dreams of this “dump”. to historic” effort on Tempe voters. But this May 16 referendum still represents a real risk for the Coyotes, and by extension the NHL. After 26 seasons of hockey in and around Phoenix, a subset of this franchise’s fans, haters and neighbors will essentially be forced to answer, yes or no, to the question “Do you care about the Coyotes?” ? Asreally care?”

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