TED SIMONS: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The race between President Obama and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney is, this time, a toss-up in Arizona. That's according to a new ASU Merrill-Morrison Institute poll. The telephone survey of 488 registered voters found that, when asked, if the presidential election winds up a choice between Obama and Romney, 42% of those polled said they would vote for Romney, with 40% voting for Obama. The poll has a Sampling error of plus or minus 4.4%. And for the first time in several decades, it appears that the number of Mexicans coming into the United States is less than or about equal to the number moving back to Mexico. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. has stopped and may have actually reversed. The report cites a variety of factors, including the recession and stronger border enforcement. As the coyotes try to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a group of investors remains hopeful that they can buy the team from the NHL and keep the Coyotes in the valley. Joining me now is Mike Sunnucks, who is covering the story for the Phoenix business Journal. Good to see you, man; thanks for joining us.
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Good to see you.
TED SIMONS: What is the status of this particular city?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Well, Greg Jamison, who is the former CEO and president of the San Jose Sharks, he still has a minority stake in the team, is putting together an investment group, and he’s trying to move forward with buying a team before the summer; that's kind of maybe our latest drop-dead date in this. He's still got to get some money together; he needs a deal with the city of Glendale, but he's kind of the ordained pick by the NHL and the city; they want to get a deal done with this guy, and it's just making the numbers work.
TED SIMONS: Tell us more about Greg Jamison. Who is he?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: He worked for the Pacers, he has some NBA experience, and he knows Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL. And he was a long-time executive for the Sharks in San Jose, ran the arena there. So he's a pro-sports executive hockey guy--served on the board of governors for NHL--pretty well respected around the league. Optimistic he can turn this thing around financially bottom-linewise, but he’s just getting the money together.
TED SIMONS: He did turn things around in San Jose, didn't he?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Yeah, they’re very successful. They've been in the playoffs a lot, competed pretty well in the bay area. They were in San Jose, obviously the other teams were in Oakland and San Francisco, but they carved out a pretty good niche there; they attracted maybe more Hispanic fans than the coyotes do here. They were successful on the ice; that's been the biggest problem for the coyotes over the years. No playoffs when Gretzky was there, moved to the new arena, didn't have a lot of success. They’ve been in the playoffs the last three seasons but haven’t won a series. And winning a series is kind of important for them. Kind of from a bottom-line standpoint.
TED SIMONS: Indeed. Okay, but he has to find more investment money. Do we know where he has his money to begin with?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: It's been very quiet. He's been the only guy we've heard who’s part of this group. He has domestic sources, folks from Canada; they've looked at folks from other countries to get money.
TED SIMONS: What about local?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: He says he has some local folks; we're not hearing any names, though. They've made the rounds to folks you would expect to hear in professional sports around here. No idea whether those folks are investing at all. And they’ve been hat in hand for three years now, trying to find ownership to keep the team here. The NHL is very committed to keeping the team here, and they’ve been reaching out to a lot of folks; it's just when you lose $25 million a year, that's a tough go.
TED SIMONS: I thought three weeks ago, maybe a month ago, there were rumors all over the place that he had the money lined up; he had pretty much a done deal in place. What happened?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: This has been a fix and starts type of transaction for a number of years with a number of groups. Jamison had folks together, lost some of those investors trying to regain the remaining amount of those folks. He said maybe two months to get a deal done. That's pretty optimistic.
TED SIMONS: Okay, Let's talk about Glendale. You have to work out a lease. Correct?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Yes, they own the arena out there. Jobing.com arena the city owns that. They've had an agreement and some payments to the NHL which owns the team. And so they need to do that with Jamison. Part of it is to run the arena; part of it is to help any owner absorb some of the losses of the team in the short-term while they turn it around.
TED SIMONS: So, the city would have to pay—they’ve been paying the NHL--they've been paying the NHL $25 million, or they were supposed to pay the NHL $25 million a year. I'm hearing anywhere from 11 to 17 million. That's what you're reporting, correct?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Yes. The mayor has kind of soured on this Coyotes deal because she hasn't got a lot of information in this latest incarnation, supports 11 million. There are council members that will go with that. Perspective owners have wanted 20 million. That just happens to match the losses of the team. Jamison and city manager Ed Beasley I think are around 17 million. Maybe there's some wiggle room in between those two. It's interesting to see if this is a make or break for the deal. If they can't get the financing or the money if they don't get so much from the city.
TED SIMONS: Well, talking about getting something and so much from the city, where is the Goldwater Institute in all this?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: They're standing on the sidelines, ready to scrutinize a deal. They have not gotten a lot of information on this. They scuttled the deal with Matthew Hulsizer, which involved city bonds, threatened to sue, really ended that deal. One thing that's happened here is the NHL and Jamison's group and the city have not produced a lot of public documents on this. It's been very quiet. That's something that's annoyed the mayor Scruggs; it's also kept the Goldwater Institute from getting those public records and looking at them. So there's a lot of folks that think we'll get a deal in place, get it done really quick and give Goldwater very little time to do anything.
TED SIMONS: What is the difference since we’re talking about The Goldwater Institute? They went to the wall as far as the bond, city bonds and the Hulsizer group. Yet the city is still paying $25 million a year to the NHL. What's the difference?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: They haven't done that. It's always been curious. They were very aggressive on the bonds and pretty much ended the bonds. And they haven't taken action on the fees. It costs a certain amount to run an arena, probably not $25 million, maybe not even $17 million. So I think they're going to look at that. It's interesting to see if the Goldwater Institute has the bite to follow with their bark on some of these things.
TED SIMONS: Real quickly, as far as timetable, what? 30, 60 days?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Yeah, we've heard 30, 60 days for a couple years now.
TED SIMONS: Yes we have. Yes.
MIKE SUNNUCKS: They want to get something done by the summer. If they had a deal in place, they could get it done while hockey is still being played I think they would try to do it. It’s when hockey is still being played I think they would try to do it. It’s when Hockey is front of mind for markets like Phoenix. Even if we're out of the playoffs, we've had a good season; people are thinking about hockey, that's when people are thinking about buying season tickets. The biggest disadvantage, they've had is they’ve been in the playoff the last three years, but who is going to buy season tickets when you think the team is going to be gone? So I think they'd like to get it done while hockey is still going on. If it hasn't got done and somebody is raising the cup, even if it’s the coyotes and nothing gets done and nothing looks like it’s progressing then we've got problems.
TED SIMONS: If the problems include the team wind up moving--Seattle, Quebec, that seems like a frontrunner, what would be the economic hit to Glendale?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Well, they would have to absorb all the costs of the arena. The team does lose money but does create tax revenue. They would have to find some way to fill the dates, 40, 50 dates a year. The mayor has talked about minor league hockey, conventions, trade shows, religious groups coming in. These are things that they were not even talking about before. It was all about the coyotes. And so, Mayor Scruggs has talked about, “let’s be prepared for some alternatives.” So they still want to keep the team. The NHL still wants to keep it here. If they can cobble together a deal they'll keep it here. But if it hasn't gotten down now, when is it going to get done?
TED SIMONS: Last question: In the dim and distance part of rumorville, I'm hearing that there could be a move in place to try to get the Coyotes to move to downtown Phoenix at a refurbished U.S. Airways center, share with the suns. Or maybe a local tribe could build an arena on Indian land and there you go, the team stays here. No money, this, that, and the other. Are those just wild fantasies?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: I think they’re wild fantasies. I think people look at what can make hockey work here. Sharing with the Suns some kind of arrangement, that's worked in other markets. Even on the other side of town in Scottsdale, that has -- that has appealed there. You can say that works because you get more tourists, more Canadians coming to live there. But they have a lease with Glendale; I think Glendale would fight that tooth and nail. They fought so hard to keep the team; I think it's kind of unrealistic to think that will happen.
TED SIMONS: What's next?
MIKE SUNNUCKS: They win the series and move forward. I think Jamison has to get the money together. That’s the key. I think if they can get the money together, Glendale has a hard time saying no. The arena will be ruined they think if they don't have hockey there. So if you get the money together, I think Glendale goes with it.
TED SIMONS: Alright, good stuff. Good to have you here, Mike, thanks for joining us.
MIKE SUNNUCKS: Thank you.