In his strongest push yet to preserve the future of the Coyotes in Arizona, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman penned a sternly worded letter to state lawmakers Tuesday lobbying for a bill that would help secure a new arena for the franchise.
The letter, sent to the Arizona Legislature, advocates for Senate Bill 1149, which would green light public funding for a proposed $395 million arena in Phoenix to house the Coyotes.
"Let me be abundantly clear: The Coyotes' current location in Glendale at Gila River River Arena is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise," Bettman wrote, referring to the city's 13-year-old facility it built specifically for the team, funded primarily by taxpayers.
"For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the League have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable," the letter continues. "Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result — a consistent economic loss.
"The simple truth? The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.“
Read the letter in its entirety here.
For years, the NHL and Glendale politicians have been at odds over Gila River Arena. The city in 2015 canceled its arena management deal with the Coyotes, effectively ending all public subsidies the team was receiving. The franchise has since said it is no longer financially viable to play at the arena due to its inconvenient proximity to the majority of its fans and sponsors.
The Coyotes are the third-least valuable franchise in the league at $240 million, according to a 2016 valuation by Forbes, and have ranked in the bottom three in the NHL every year since 2007. That leads to perennial rumors about relocation, heightened by recent pushes by Quebec City and Seattle to add a franchise.
The NHL, though, has remained bullish in keeping the franchise in Arizona under stable ownership with Andrew Barroway and Anthony LeBlanc, who bought the team in 2013.
In the letter, Bettman reaffirmed the league's commitment to keeping the franchise in the region by way of building a new Phoenix area, but said Glendale "is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise."
Senate Bill 1149, sponsored by Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, recently advanced out of the Senate committee but is facing unfavorable odds of approval in the house.