Coyotes rip Seattle, Portland arena tour report, confident they’ll stay

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Fans cheer during the NHL game between the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/ari/" data-ylk="slk:Arizona Coyotes">Arizona Coyotes</a> and the Philadelphia Flyers at Gila River Arena on October 15, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime. (Getty Images)
Fans cheer during the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Philadelphia Flyers at Gila River Arena on October 15, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime. (Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc issued a strong-worded rebuke on a local radio show about a recent report by the Glendale Star, which stated that team members had toured arenas in Portland and Seattle

On Wednesday, citing officials in Seattle and Portland, the Star said that “members of the Arizona Coyotes” had toured KeyArena in Seattle and the Moda Center in Portland. Key Arena has been vacant since the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 2007-08 season. The Moda Center is home of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I have big news for you guys. I found out who the source is. It’s (presidential counselor) Kellyanne Conway. Sorry I had to throw in some political references,” LeBlanc said as a quip on the presidential administration of Donald Trump and Conway’s previous statement about the usage of ‘alternative facts‘ along with other reported falsehoods. “It couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is 100 percent false and to go back to my political references, (President Trump) referred to a judge as a ‘so-called judge.’ I actually refer to this newspaper as a ‘so-called newspaper’ about a year ago. There is absolutely no facts whatsoever in that story. I mean, referencing an anonymous source at an arena? It’s flabbergasting. I don’t know why you would even consider doing that. And then of course adding insult to injury by saying it was someone from the Coyotes.”

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Added LeBlanc, “There is absolutely, unequivocally no truth to this story whatsoever. It’s incredibly disappointing.”

According to Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker a list of attendees at a developer/owner tour of KeyArena by the city two weeks ago shows no reps from the Arizona Coyotes amongst non-city staff and media.

The Arizona Republic slammed the Glendale Star for its reporting on the issue.

We are not equating any publication with The Weekly World News, but in today’s vast media environment, sometimes an item that may have been carelessly reported will — through several re-tellings — become more and more factual.

 

On a related note, the Arizona Coyotes decided to issue a news release Thursday morning because of a story in a Glendale “community weekly” publication. The publication cited an anonymous source as saying there was a Coyotes representative present during tours of arenas in the Pacific Northwest. In the story, a Coyotes (official spokesman) representative flatly denied the report

Last Friday, it was reported that Arizona State had pulled out of an arena deal with the Coyotes, which reignited new worries about the Coyotes future in Arizona, despite the organization’s constant public commitments to the Phoenix metropolitan area. The Coyotes had announced the deal with ASUin mid-November.

In 2012, there was talk about the Coyotes moving to Seattle, but KeyArena was deemed not viable for hockey in the long term.

In 2013, Seattle was “Plan B” for the NHL as it attempted to sell the Coyotes following the team’s bankruptcy proceedings. Former Coyotes star Jeremy Roenick was reportedly part of the ownership group that sought to relocate that franchise, but it was sold to owners that kept the franchise in Glendale.

Seattle was most recently seen as a potential expansion spot for the NHL but a local bid did not materialize in time for the NHL’s most recent round of expansion that led to the entrance of the Vegas Golden Knights into the league.

Before the report by the Glendale Star, Arizona Sports spoke with state senator Bob Worsley, who said that the Coyotes had several arena possibilities in the local area.

Worsley said he is aware of “four or five options” the Coyotes have, aside from remaining at Gila River Arena in Glendale, where the city confirmed this month that the Coyotes had extended their lease through the 2017-18 season. Arizona Sports reported in November that private developers, in cooperation with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, are exploring the idea of building a 20,000-seat multi-purpose event center south of the Scottsdale Pavilions and west of Loop 101 that they say could potentially house the Arizona Coyotes, but the Coyotes are believed to be focused on other sites.

 

Arizona Sports previously reported an interest in a site near the Chicago Cubs’ spring training facility at Riverview Park in Mesa, less than two miles from the proposed ASU site. The Coyotes have also explored building on tribal land along the Loop 101 corridor, and the team and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton remain interested in a downtown location, although that would require cooperation from Suns owner Robert Sarver.

LeBlanc noted that the team has “a number of options” for a new arena and that a solution could come to fruition in the “relative short-term” which he said could be a month or a year.

“(Phoenix) mayor Greg Stanton has been incredibly forthright in his statements that he would like to see us downtown and that’s something we’re very interested in, but it does mean we go back – not to ground level or to the first phase, but we have to re-start the process, which we started in earnest on Friday night,” LeBlanc said.

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LeBlanc said he was “disappointed” with the decision by Arizona State to pull out of a potential new arena but understood that part of the reason had to do with funds being allocated more towards education and research.

“That was really difficult. It was unfortunate and it was a blind side. Having that said, ASU is a great institution. We have a fabulous long-term relationship with Ray Anderson and the athletics department,” LeBlanc said. “I have to take my Coyotes hat off and I can do this easily because I used to be on the Board of Governors with my alma mater and I understand the purpose of a university, and there has been a lot of rumors and most of them have been confirmed to me, that at the end of the day this was a political decision that had to be made and the thought was they didn’t want to do anything that hurts the legislation they’re working on in regards to research and at the end of the day the charter of a university is research and education.”

The Coyotes have stated in the past that with the right arena location, the organization could flourish in the area. Much of the team’s fanbase is located in the East Valley, but their current building resides in the West Valley. Arizona has been in Gila River Arena since the 2003-04 season and LeBlanc said that they probably couldn’t play in the building for more than two years without knowledge that a new facility in the area was being built.

“To take the high road, the decision to make our build a facility in Glendale was a decision that was made prior to our ownership group and prior to the existing city council. And the honest answer is it was a mistake,” LeBlanc said. “It was the wrong location for this franchise. We love the building. It’s a great building, but the problem is that we as the owners of the franchise lose considerable, and when I say considerable, if I said the actual number it would scare people, but on the flip side we have the option to essentially do what we want within NHL guidelines and the only thing, Glendale Star aside, the only thing we’re focused on and we’re spending considerable money on resources for this, is to find a solution within the Valley that makes sense, because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is no available option for this team if a relocation was ever considered, that is better than the greater Phoenix metropolitan area in the right location.”

LeBlanc was asked about the possibility of being involved in a downtown Phoenix arena with the Suns and said that the Coyotes hadn’t “had discussions in quite some time” with the NBA franchise. The Coyotes had played in downtown Phoenix in the same building as the Suns before the move to Glendale.

“The initial discussions were about the potential of us playing in the existing facility for a short period of time and nothing ever progressed,” LeBlanc said. “We have had extensive discussions with the city. Look from our perspective everything is a negotiation and it all comes down to who is putting what into a facility. I’m not going to tip my hat and say ‘we would do x or y’ but the concept of a new facility in downtown Phoenix, we echo and share Mayor Stanton’s enthusiasm about the concept. We think it’s a great idea and we would just like to have the opportunity to have a discussion.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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