Arizona latest site of sports’ search for ‘incentives’

Posted Aug. 09, 2009, at 10:12 p.m.

Where would the world of pro sports be if we eliminated all business tax deductions and tax dollar “incentives” that so benefit pro teams?

Would those exorbitantly priced luxury boxes and field seats be sold if they weren’t tax deductible? Would teams be moving baseball training sites and building massive playing structures in which to sell their wares if tax dollars (incentives) weren’t involved?

There is plenty of corporate welfare going on and pro sports are at the feeding trough.

Professionally, team owners love to rally the fans and pump the spin by saying, “What would (city name here) do without our team. It’s more than money,” they say, “it’s about being a major league city.”

That means, of course, it’s all about the money.

The latest in this corporate welfare drive is talking place in Glendale, Ariz.

The Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL are hemorrhaging money. The current owners want to sell and have filed for bankruptcy.

The best true business offer, that means money not welfare requests, seems to be coming from a Canadian businessman who wants to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

The NHL does not want to move the team. The “hockey in the Sunbelt” efforts would not be helped. There are also the problems of the schedule for next season and the question of moving another team into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ market.

The Phoenix New Times reports the records they have been able to obtain show the mayor of Glendale “is trying his best to hand over the Coyotes to his friend, lobbyist John Kaites, and Kaites’ Chicago buddy, Jerry Reinsdorf.”

Reinsdorf is the owner of the Chicago White Sox, who train in Tucson, and one of the bidders in bankruptcy for the Coyotes. The NHL appears to favor Reinsdorf for ownership since he would keep the team in Glendale.

But at what price? The Arizona Republic reports the city would have to pay up to $23 million annually from a “voluntary business tax” for the right to keep the unprofitable hockey team in town.

Additionally, the Republic says there would be another $15 million yearly payment if the team loses money, and it surely will if it stays in Phoenix.

The Goldwater Institute, a self-described “independent government watchdog,” on Friday filed to intervene in the case since it has been refused bankruptcy documents it wants in order to assess the impact on Glendale from a taxpayer perspective.

One problem in this whole mess is the inability of the public to see the full filings in the bankruptcy court that would tell the whole story of just who is asking for what in the bids for the team.

The Institute says the requests for information from Glendale have resulted in “irrelevant and heavily redacted documents.”

That resulted in the filing by the Institute based on possible “unconstitutional tax subsidies to a new potential owner.”

Welfare comes in many forms to many hands. The question in Glendale is how much and just whose fingers are after the public moolah.

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