Coyotes president LeBlanc ‘moving forward’ with new arena site
The Coyotes moved one step closer to finding a new home Friday.
In what he called “an update, not an announcement,” team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said the Coyotes have chosen a site for their new arena. LeBlanc would not disclose a specific location or timeline for the arena, but said more details would come as the team continues to work through legal documentation for the real estate agreement.
“I’ve learned my lesson. We’re not going to put a firm date on it, but we’re now moving forward with the site,” LeBlanc said in a video provided by the Coyotes.
The Coyotes have been searching for a new home since June 2015, when the Glendale City Council voted to terminate its 15-year, $225 million deal with the team. The two sides entered into a two-year agreement following that termination, which keeps the team at Gila River Arena through next season.
LeBlanc said he expects the Coyotes to stay in Glendale for the next three years while their new arena is under construction. He met with officials from AEG Facilities, which manages Gila River Arena, at the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings last week to discuss a lease extension in Glendale, but said nothing concrete has been put in place as of yet.
“There’s no real rush because of the fact that we already have this year’s lease in place,” LeBlanc said. “But as I’ve said, we’ve had the discussions with AEG about the extension, and the word back is ‘just let us know when you need it and we’ll get it wrapped,’ so we’re not concerned about that at all.”
AEG officials could not be reached for comment.
The new building will be funded in a “public-private fashion,” with the Coyotes financing more than 50 percent of the cost, according to LeBlanc.
“What we are going to be approaching this is with a concept of not looking for taxpayer dollars,” LeBlanc said. “Are we looking for some form of refund of sales taxes generated? Perhaps. Those are preliminary discussions we had with the state legislature a couple months ago.”
Previously reported possible landing spots for the new building have included Phoenix, Tempe and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation. Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton has voiced his support for a new shared building downtown with the Phoenix Suns, who are also in the market for a new facility.
“Building two new professional arenas in our region simply doesn’t make fiscal or common sense,” Stanton said at his State of the City Address in April.
The situation surrounding the Coyotes new arena has even found it’s way into free agency. General manager John Chayka told reporters Thursday that the topic was discussed during negotiations with newly signed defenseman Alex Goligoski.
“Of course it came up, every player wants to know where they’re going to play,” Chayka said on a conference call. “I think our ownership did a good job of adequately addressing it and that’s part of the reason why he signed.”
LeBlanc said that he explained the situation to Goligoski, and that any potential free agents should feel confident about the team’s plans for a future home.
“I met with Alex and gave him the rundown, and obviously he left that with a fair degree of comfort, as he should,” LeBlanc said. “I think that will be a similar message that Dave (Tippett) and John would be relaying to any potential free agents moving forward, is that we have a deal basically done.”
A full announcement on the new arena is expected sometime this summer, according to LeBlanc. A backup plan is in place should the current location fall through during legal negotiations, but LeBlanc reiterated the organization’s commitment to the chosen site.
“It’s a very fluid situation, but what needed to happen was the site selection, which we have done,” he said. “That allows us to move forward and really start all of these ancillary things in a more progressed manner.”
By Matt Faye, Cronkite News