Business Insider: Arizona’s terrible NHL team is begging voters for $200 million to build a permanent home, but stadiums are consistently huge money pits

February 6, 2023 Media

Less than an hour from State Farm Stadium, a far less glitzy scene continues to unfold in Tempe. The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are for the moment stuck in an arena that is three times smaller than any other in the league. The professional team may need the facility for a few more years, but their logo doesn’t cover the entirety of center ice. That’s because the top-level franchise actually shares the spacewith Arizona State’s college hockey team.

The hope is that this franchise, which was once in bankruptcy protection and more recently was unceremoniously evicted from its previous home in Glendale, can find a way out of this morass with a $2.1 billion plan to turn 1.5 million tons of garbage and surrounding area into a new arena with two hotels, a music venue, and housing.

At its core, though, is a question that has long plagued cities and sports teams’ loyal fans: How much money should taxpayers spend or forgo to support professional teams?

A struggling franchise hopes voters will give it a glistening home

This won’t be a rhetorical question in Tempe.

“I’m mostly chuckling that we’re sitting here talking about the Arizona Coyotes in the year of our lord 2023, because it’s been such a joke for so long that this silly team in a silly place is trying to get a publicly funded arena,” Pat Garofalo, the director of state and local policy at the American Economic Liberties Project, told Insider.

Garofalo, who wrote a book on public support for billionaires and corporate America, first wrote in 2012 about the Coyotes’ struggles to secure an arena. At the time, Glendale was still hoping the team would stay. The city also paid $50 million to the NHL to keep the team in the city while the franchise navigated bankruptcy.

“On some level, it’s just sad that we are still here talking about the Arizona Coyotes trying to get taxpayer dollars for an arena when they are sort of the poster child for why cities do not have to spend money on professional sports teams,” he said. “Glendale is fine. At the time, it was, ‘Oh, my goddess, the Coyotes are going to leave. Glendale is going to fall into a crater. What are we going to do?’

“Then after years and years of paying money into this sad-sack franchise, they said, ‘We’re done and we can’t do this anymore.’ And Glendale is fine.”