Stadium Finance

Arizona Bill Would Give One Billion Dollars To Team Owners

A reminder that billionaires should pay for their own stupid bullshit

Stadium Finance
Arizona taxpayer reaction — Getty Images
Feb 15, 2017 at 11:49 AM ET

The Arizona Coyotes would very much like a new arena to call home, even though they’ve already got a perfectly decent one right now, with a lease agreement that runs through this summer and the city of Glendale paying the team $6.5 million per year.

The 2015 extension agreement, though, has never sat well with the Coyotes’ president and part owner, Anthony LeBlanc, who has made it clear time and time again that the team absolutely has to have a new venue somewhere in the state. And if you had any doubts, yes, the Coyotes have been mumbling about relocation should their demands not be met. Earlier this month, a Coyotes’ representative reportedly trundled up to the Pacific Northwest to scout out locations just because. No implied threat at all.

After a previous attempt to secure $200 million in various tax rebates to build a proposed $400 million arena in Tempe fell through, the team might snag an even sweeter deal at the expense of Arizona taxpayers, of course. On Tuesday, Senate Bill 1149 made its way out of initial committee hearings and seems poised to eventually be put before a full vote. Should it pass, the team would pay $170 million while receiving $55 million from whichever city ultimately decides to go through with this, plus an additional $170 million generated by (you guessed it) various tax kickbacks and other new sales taxes which would then go towards repaying a state-issued bond.

SB 1149 was sponsored by State Senator Bob Worsley, who used an amendment to slap it onto an existing transportation bill and shunt debate from the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee. It passed by a 6-1 vote, which probably had nothing to do with the fact that Worsley chairs the Transportation Committee.

So, instead of paying for half the bill, the Coyotes would now only cough up 43 percent, assuming the total costs don’t top the current projection of $395 million. Tell us why the 14-year-old Gila River Arena in Glendale isn’t any good, Ahron Cohen, the Coyotes’ general council.

“It does not work in Glendale,” Cohen explained to a Senate panel. “In 2013, our ownership group bought the team. The previous ownership chose to go out there.”

But wait, there’s more! Any pro sports team in Arizona could use this legislation to avail itself of even more public dollars and construct a mega-sports/entertainment extravaganza.

Via the Arizona Republic:

The legislation caps state sales taxes used to build a facility at half of a facility’s cost, up to a maximum of $750 million. And it allows a city to pick up the entire other half. Therefore, it is possible that a sports franchise could get all or most of a new arena subsidized through taxpayers.

Worley remains confident that the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Arizona Cardinals won’t take advantage of this provision since the bill expires in 2019. But check this out: here’s the Suns’ managing partner, Robert Sarver, talking about leaving Talking Stick Arena when their lease expires in 2021 with the backing of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who’s made it clear a new arena is one of his legislative priorities. The Diamondbacks are taking Maricopa County to court, demanding $187 million from the county to pay for what they claim are necessary upgrades. Even if they lose in court, they too are still holding out hope they’ll find private partners who’ll go in on a new stadium.

Three major sports teams receiving $375 million each comes to a possible max total of $1.125 billion, plus the $225 million the Coyotes would receive. And that’s assuming that the proposed expansion MLS team in Phoenix doesn’t jump into the fray. We can only hope the other members of the Arizona State Senate quash this deeply stupid bill before it’s too late.