Arizona Senate Bill 1149, a proposed bill to assist the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes with a new arena in the state, appears dead as the 2017 legislative session has been extended, but the bill is currently listed as adjourned on the legislative website.
While the bill is listed as adjourned, a spokesperson for District 20 Rep. Anthony Kern said that it still could come to a vote, but is not expected.
After a first scheduled attempted vote Feb. 28 was removed from the schedule and no vote taken, if it is not voted on during the extension, it would have to be re-introduced during the next legislative session, unless it is included in the state budget.
The bill, which would allow for the creation of a Community Entertainment District (CEG), where all sales inside the district would be taxed by an additional 2 percent, is the groundwork for the arena, once funding is set in place, with the agreement working for whatever Valley city would ultimately be home for the venue.
In the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, the CEG was not site-specific, since the Coyotes have not settled on a location for the proposed arena.
Arizona Coyotes spokesperson Rich Nairn said in an earlier statement, after the scheduled Feb. 28 vote was cancelled, that the team will, “continue to work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area.”
Nairn added that the “NHL believes (Arizona) is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful franchise.”
The bill struggled to gain any traction from members of the Legislature and, according to Senate President Steve Yarbrough, was never likely to pass the way it was presented.
Yarbrough added that a slim way the bill could pass is if it was included in the state budget, which he said was “extremely unlikely.” Gov. Doug Ducey has said he would not sign an amendment to the budget that included a version of this bill.
“I saw the Coyotes’ lobbyist working and talking up to the last minute, so I am not comfortable (a version of this bill) is going to be a non-issue, but I believe that particular bill is dead,” Kern said earlier this month. “They could do something in the House; not sure where they are going to get the votes and they don’t have the votes as I can see, but it is not over until it is over.”
This follows a recent threat by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, wherein he told the Arizona Legislature that if SB1149 failed to pass to assist the Coyotes with paying for a new arena, the team may finally have to leave the state.
Bettman apparently slammed the door on the team returning to Glendale past 2018, if the bill is not passed.
“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,” Bettman’s letter said.
Ducey fired back at Bettman after his ultimatum to legislators that the Coyotes could not remain in Glendale and they needed tax breaks for a new arena in the state.
“I don’t know if delivering an ultimatum letter is the most productive thing that can be done,” Ducey said on a local radio appearance.
Kern has continued to push for the Coyotes to remain in Glendale at Gila River Arena and said he would do everything in his power to protect the taxpayers who recently said in a poll they were against funding a third arena in the state.
“(Bettman’s letter) tells me they have some tactical maneuvers at the Legislature to keep pushing this taxing district, when nearly 80 percent of voters are against public funding,” Kern said. “It looks like they are trying to get something to keep this possible taxing district moving. This tells me that if they can’t make it in Glendale, where they have the second- or third-best lease agreement, they can’t make it anywhere.”
As Legislature prepares for budget discussions, a version of the bill could be included, but Ducey has said he would not approve tax-payers footing the bill for a new arena in the state.
In additional Coyotes news, the team announced they would be reducing the seating capacity at Gila River Arena for the 2017-18 season by placing a tarp over four sections in the upper deck. The team is covering 1,256 seats, which drops capacity at the arena from 17,125 down to 15,869. The team finished 29th out of 30 teams, averaging 13,095 per game, which is only 76.5 percent capacity at the arena. The team has finished 28th or worse in attendance over the past 10 seasons.