A “pending” deal to keep the Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise in Arizona is in the works, and might take a bit of giddiness out of Mayor Mike McGinn’s new sports arena plan. The $700 to $900 million project he announced last week needs commitments from NHL and NBA teams before it becomes reality, and the bankrupt Coyotes seemed the most viable rink candidate. Still, arena backer Chris Hansen, who plans to invest $300 million of his personal fortune in the project, has time and options on his side. The National Hockey League-owned Coyotes are on the verge of being sold to a group led by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, according to latest reports. The $170 million “pending sale” would keep the team playing in the desert market, says the Phoenix Business Journal.
That doesn’t mean the troubled franchise, even with new owners, won’t be available next season if it continues to lose money and suffer at the gate – especially if Hansen and his secret ArenaCo investment group make Jamison an irresistible offer to play in a big new arena in a slightly larger market. As well, other struggling teams, such as the New York Islanders, are potential Seattle arena tenants.Insiders familiar with Hansen’s plans says he’s focused primarily on owning an NBA franchise to play in the proposed 18,000 seat SoDo arena, and is eying teams in Sacramento, New Orleans and Charlotte. Hansen needs an NHL team to make the deal pencil out, but he might have to move ahead with only an NBA commitment in hopes of subsequently luring a hockey franchise, observers speculate.Hansen appears to have the money to do what he’s promised. His Valiant Capital Partners hedge fund in San Francisco has assets of $2.1 billion, according to the trade magazine AR (Absolute Return), although Hansen has not said whether any of his investment money or clients are directly involved with ArenaCo. He has promised a personal financial commitment of at least $300 million, says King County Executive Dow Constantine – “his own money,” as the exec puts it. Altogether, Hansen and his partners propose to come up with roughly $300 million for the arena and a minimum $200 million (it could take as much as $400 million) for a basketball team. With another $200 million for arena construction from taxpayers that would be paid back through arena revenue, the $700 million outlay would mean a new facility, the NBA and the NHL for Seattle. It will likely take months, perhaps a year, before we know whether Hansen is any good from the three-point range.