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NHL commissioner: Arizona Coyotes ‘cannot and will not remain in Glendale’

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale,” the commissioner of the National Hockey League wrote in a letter to the Arizona Legislature on Tuesday.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wrote a letter to members of the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives urging them to pass Senate Bill 1149, which would help fund a $395 million arena for the Coyotes.

Bettman said the NHL is committed to keeping the Coyotes in the Phoenix area, but stressed that the “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,” part of the letter read. “Our combined efforts have yielded the same result — a consistent economic loss.”

Bettman cited a study that found the new arena funded by the bill would “create more than 2,500 jobs” over the two years that it is projected to build and would result in an economic impact of “more than $600 million.”

In a letter released by the Coyotes on Tuesday afternoon, team owner Andrew Barroway agreed that the team “cannot survive in Glendale” and that the team is “simply seeking to split the tax revenues generated from the arena district equally with the state.”

Barroway also pushed for a public-private partnership to “ensure the Coyotes’ future in Arizona and remove the uncertainty that has hovered over the franchise for many years.”

“While we cannot and will not stay in Glendale, we will continue to push our proposed public-private partnership until we wither achieve a long-term arena solution in a more economically viable location in the Valley, or we reach a point where there is simply no longer a path forward in Arizona,” the letter said.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard reacted quickly to Bettman’s letter, saying that while he wants the Coyotes to stay in Arizona, the current proposal “is no small thing.”

“The NHL first needs to make the case for a state-funded arena to the taxpayers,” Mesnard said in a statement. “We’re not seeing a lot of enthusiasm that the public wants to foot the bill for a new arena, and until the NHL can win over taxpayers, they’re going to have a tough sell at the Legislature.”

The legislation, which was proposed by Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, is also strongly opposed by Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale. Kern has urged the team to stay in his city and opposes any new state funding for an arena that would compete for other events with Glendale’s facility.

The legislation has been sitting without action in the Senate for weeks, a sign of lack of support.

The Coyotes and the city of Glendale have gone head-to-head since the city cancelled its lease agreement at Gila River Arena with the team in 2015.

In May 2016, officials with the Coyotes essentially slammed the door on the possibility of returning to Glendale in a letter to the city’s manager, Kevin Phelps.

“Simply put, the Arizona Coyotes have every intention of leaving Glendale as soon as practicable,” part of the letter read.

The Coyotes had the possibility of relocating to Tempe under a potential deal with Arizona State University, but the university pulled out of the deal in February.

As what’s next for the team, the Coyotes could possibly be housed in a 20,000-seat multi-purpose event center that would be located south of the Scottsdale Pavilions and west of the Loop 101. Developers began discussing plans for the facility in October 2016, but have not yet made a decision to move forward on the project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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