Arizona stadium situation could take new twist

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 09: Zack Grienke
PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 09: Zack Grienke /

A pair of bills in the Arizona state legislature could affect the stadium situations for all of the state’s professional sports teams, but it’s not clear yet exactly what those effects could be.

According to Jessica Boehm of The Republic, both chambers of the Arizona legislature are considering bills that would strongly limit the ability of any governmental bodies in the state to give taxpayer money to construction or renovation projects for sports stadiums.

The timing of the introduction of these bills – HB2370 and SB 1453 – is interesting at least if not inconvenient for three of Arizona’s professional sports franchises. The Arizona Diamondbacks are headed to court-ordered arbitration with Maricopa County, Ariz., over their lease of Chase Field. The Arizona Coyotes are in a year-to-year situation with their current home in Glendale as they try to find a long-term solution. It’s also been public for nearly three years that the Phoenix Suns consider Talking Stick Arena outdated.

If either of the bills currently in the Arizona legislature become law, getting tax dollars to build new facilities or renovate existing ones would become immensely more difficult for these franchises. That possibility puts these franchises in a new position.

The race to try to secure partnerships with the state or city or county governments ahead of the possible passage of one of these bills is now on. Even if one of these bills becomes law, it wouldn’t affect deals already in place at the time they were enacted. Teams might also hire lobbyists to try to alter the language of these bills or prevent their passage altogether while that can be done.

Even in a situation in which these bills become law as they are and one or more of these teams fail to secure public funds before their passage, all hope wouldn’t be lost for the teams. Depending on the language of the bills, loopholes and room to challenge the law in court could be found.

One such potential legal challenge is based on the fact that neither of these bills outlaw taxpayer dollars going toward construction/renovation for facilities for the use of any and all privately-owned businesses, merely those businesses in the professional sports industry. The teams could challenge this law in court, arguing that providing facilities for privately-held businesses in other industries but not theirs is discriminatory.

It’s also possible that teams could partner with businesses involved in other industries. Those partners could petition for public funds for new facilities that could be used in a variety of ways. The teams could then lease the space for their purposes from those other businesses. All these bills would do in that scenario is create a “middle man” in these transactions.

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These bills are very early in the legislative process and the effects that they could have on Arizona’s professional sports teams and the taxpayers of the state are similarly too early to tell. Some of these effects may not be what the backers of these bills have in mind.