When I say “Arizona,” what springs to mind? Cactus. Rattlesnakes. Dry heat. However, politicians in one Grand Canyon State suburb decided that hockey was the perfect fit for their desert bedroom community.
The Phoenix Coyotes weren’t happy sharing a new downtown arena with the Suns. So the city of Glendale, Ariz., flush with tax revenue from the Sun Belt real estate bubble, built a hockey-only facility surrounded by miles of cotton fields.
Sure, the arena was 20 miles of rush-hour traffic from downtown, but the politicians promised if they built it, economic development would come. But Glendale’s rink of dreams quickly descended into a field of schemes.
In 2009, the team’s owner filed the Coyotes into bankruptcy, forcing the NHL to buy the team. The next year, a group offered to purchase and manage the franchise, but the deal fell apart. Then a Chicago hedge-fund manager wanted to buy, but a year of legal wrangling chased him away.
Last year, a San Jose tycoon looked like the financial savior, but he couldn’t raise the funds. Today, the City of Glendale is negotiating with yet another potential buyer promising to bring the fading franchise into the black for the first time.
In the meantime, Glendale has drastically reduced fire and police, closed libraries, and fired city staff. The only thing the politicians refuse to cut is their precious hockey team.
The depressing saga took a turn toward the absurd earlier this week when city leaders thought up a brilliant plan to restore fiscal health: Mortgage City Hall to pay for the hockey team.
Using the council chambers as collateral would allow the city to borrow $30 million. That money, in turn, would help pay off other loans the city gave itself to cover sports-related debt.
Hard to believe this country’s in so much trouble with geniuses like this running the show.
The city hall mortgage left one councilmember shaking his head. “Is there a sign out front saying ‘sale pending?’” Ian Hugh said. “It’s a sad thing to have a city hall that’s paid for and we have to use it as collateral to pay the money that we’ve given the NHL, because that’s where it’s going.”
As professional athletes count their millions and team owners count their billions, the only losers in the sports subsidy game are the taxpayers.
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.