All along, businessman Bill Foley has said that his plan is to bring an NHL expansion team to Las Vegas.
But a newspaper report on Tuesday claimed just the opposite, that Foley was purchasing the Arizona Coyotes and moving them to Las Vegas in an attempt to bring the city its first major league sports team.
The New York Post reported that Foley was working with the NHL to purchase the team, which is currently involved in a legal battle with the city of Glendale over its lease at Gila River Arena.
According to the Post’s story, the team would move to Las Vegas for the 2016-17 season and play in the $375 million MGM Reorts-Anschuntz Entertainment Group arena that is under construction behind New York-New York and will be finished in April 2016. The new arena will seat 17,500 for hockey.
The Post’s story did not indicate the purchase price for the franchise or where exactly it would play in the 2015-16 season. The NHL released its schedule last week with the Coyotes playing in Glendale.
Foley did not respond to phone calls or text messages for comment. But the Post’s story was quickly denounced by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was quoted on Twitter by Fox Sports Arizona saying “The Post was told the story was completely untrue. They ran it anyway. The story is garbage. Team is staying put.”
NHL spokesman Frank Brown told the Review-Journal via email that the Post’s report was “categorically untrue.”
Also, Coyotes president, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc told Fox Sports Arizona that “the article in the Post is 100 percent false. No truth to it whatsoever.”
When Bettman was in Las Vegas last Wednesday for the Board of Governors meeting, he spoke specifically about the Coyotes’ situation and said the team was not leaving Arizona.
“We’re committed to the (Arizona) market, and we believe everything will be worked out and the team will play this season in Glendale and for years to come,” Bettman said.
On Monday, a judge ordered the city of Glendale to pay the team $3.75 million, which is owed as part of the original agreement the two sides made, while also increasing the team’s bond with the city from $250,000 to $1 million. Depositions in the team’s lawsuit against the city are expected to be taken July 7, according to the Arizona Republic.
Foley and his ownership group, which includes the Maloof family, are preparing the paperwork to formally apply for an expansion team. The group has secured 13,200 deposits for season tickets, and the bid is expected to be submitted early next week.
Monday is the first day to apply for expansion, with the deadline Aug. 10. The expansion fee is expected to be $500 million. If approved, the Las Vegas expansion franchise would begin play in the 2017-18 season.
The listed value of the Coyotes in November 2014 was $225 million, according to Forbes Magazine. LeBlanc and George Gosbee purchased the team in 2013 for $170 million.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.