The best way to get public money for a sports venue is to find a way to avoid a public vote on the proposal.
That basic truth was proven again in Tempe on Tuesday, when local voters rejected three proposals regarding the potential construction of a new facility for the Phoenix Coyotes. Even though Tempe mayor Corey Woods called it the “best sports deal in Arizona history,” voters weren’t willing to foot any of the bill.
And while it’s easy to attribute this one to the fact that hockey currently occupies a spot on the fringes of the mainstream sports scene at best, the same outcome would be likely in any jurisdiction for any NFL team. Most electorates contain far more voters who don’t care about football, and who wouldn’t be inclined to subsidize the oligarchs who own and operate football teams.
Even though ballot measures regarding public money for sports stadiums almost always fail, efforts to get the money via political maneuverings not involving the ballot box almost always prevail. It could be as simple as politicians not wanting to be responsible for losing the local team, and in turn being willing to do whatever needs to be done to save it.
Regardless, Tempe voters have made it clear that they don’t sweat the possibility of losing the local ice hockey team. If another city wants to attract the Coyotes, the time to act is now.
As long as it can put the money together without putting the issue out to vote.