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Face-off Over Fate Of Phoenix Coyotes Doesn't Mean A Move To Seattle

NHLSeattleCoyotes.jpg
Ross D. Franklin
/
AP Photo
A face-off between the Phoenix Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes' at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

A surprising development in Glendale, Ariz., involving the Phoenix Coyotes has hockey fans in Seattle crossing their fingers about a possible relocation of the team.

But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says their wish isn’t likely to come true.

Out Of The Blue

"This blew up out of nowhere, catching everyone by surprise," Thiel said. "The attorney for the City of Glendale left his position some months ago and took up the position as general counsel for the Coyotes.

"There's a specific prohibition – very common with most municipalities doing leases – that if someone leaves their government position for a private position, there either has to be a passage of time or it's just not allowed."

Trying To Hide An Agenda

Thiel said the Coyotes' owners call move a technicality disguising an agenda.

"They think Glendale doesn't like the lease they signed two years ago with the Coyotes that requires the city to subsidize the team to the tune of $15 million dollars in public funds every year," he said.

Thiel pointed out that the city does get the revenues from the project and parking, etc. But that only amounts to $8 million a year.

"So this tiny suburb of Glendale is subsidizing the team to the tune of $7-8 million annually and they just can’t afford them," he said.

"But they agreed to the deal and the Coyotes' owners are saying 'What a minute, just because you don’t like a deal you can’t sneak out of it on a technicality.' So, they plan to sue.

"It's going to be a very difficult arrangement this summer and next fall because the two parties are at odds. And I don't think the Coyotes can be moved anywhere with this short of notice to a new city."

Seattle...Ever?

Thiel thinks it's a "pretty remote" possibility that the Coyotes could ever come to Seattle.

"I'm saying it's highly unlikely and much ado about nothing. Because there's no arena here," he said. "Investor Chris Hansen doesn't have his project up and running."

Other Cities More Ready

But Thiel said there are at least two cities that have much better prospects for landing a team.

"Quebec City is scheduled to open an 18-thousand-seat arena in September. They used to house the Quebec Nordiques but lost that team 20 years ago to Denver.

"The other city is Las Vegas, which has already got steel in the ground for an arena that they want to present to the NHL in a year or two as a possibility for an expansion franchise.

"Either of those cities are better spots to land a team than Seattle," he said.

What About Tukwila?

Former oil trader Ray Bartoszek has proposed a hockey arena for Tukwila.

"I think that might have a better shot than Chris Hansen," Thiel said. "Hansen still is awaiting approval. And he has to have a team in hand before he can ask the city council for a rewrite of the Memorandum of Understanding that right now says 'basketball first.'

"In order to get hockey first, Hansen has to get a hockey partner. Someone to own the team and be his partner in the arena."

To bring a National Hockey League team to Tukwila, Thiel said Bartoszek will have to come up with $400 million or $500 million to buy the team and probably $500 million or more to build the arena by himself because he’s promising he will not ask for public funding.

"So that’s $1 billion that he would have to come up with very, very shortly. That seems like a long shot for there. And, right now with the Hansen project there’s no shot to get a team now unless he partners with someone," Thiel said.

Bartoszek Has Hockey History

Thiel noted that Bartoszek nearly got the Coyotes two years ago when he wanted to move the team to KeyArena temporarily and partner with Hansen.

"Clearly, Bartoszek and Hansen are not on the same page. They are now rivals building separate projects. And it’s just not the right time for the Coyotes to relocate to Seattle," he said.

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You can find Art Thiel’s work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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