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Kate Gallego does not support the use of taxpayer money

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The ongoing Arizona Coyotes arena saga took another turn Thursday when a spokeswoman for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the mayor “does not support the use of taxpayer dollars, including property tax abatements, for sports arenas.”

“Mayor Gallego had a productive meeting with Alex Meruelo and his family a few weeks ago and they discussed Mr. Meruelo's plans to participate in the state land auction and, if successful, to develop the North Phoenix site,” Arielle Devorah told media members in a statement via Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports.

The statement continued: “The mayor believes that professional ice hockey can thrive in the desert, but also made clear that she does not support the use of taxpayer dollars, including property tax abatements, for sports arenas.”

More: Coyotes owner on how pro hockey can return to Arizona

What the Coyotes need to do to bring the franchise back to Arizona

The Coyotes are currently a dormant NHL franchise after the team moved to Utah. Owner Alex Meruelo reiterated his commitment to purchasing more than 100 acres of public land in north Phoenix in an interview with The Republic last month.

It will be sold at an Arizona State Land Department auction in June. The opening bid for the property is $68.5 million.

Meruelo has five years to build a new arena for the Coyotes and has a deal in place to reactivate the Arizona Coyotes in Arizona with an expansion team should a suitable arena for the team be built during that time.

Meruelo told Republic in this interview last month that he hopes it will be ready sooner, in three to four years, but he expects construction to take around 30 months.

More: Why the NHL's loss in Arizona is bad for hockey fans

Will Coyotes get support from Phoenix for new arena?

Interestingly, in that interview, Meruelo talked about working with the city, something that may be difficult to achieve given Gallego's statement on Thursday.

“It won’t happen without the cities working together,” Meruelo told The Republic last month.

Along with the approval, Meruelo said he would seek help implementing a “theme park district” that would allow a surcharge on items sold on the site to help fund development and operations.

Arizona passed a law in 2021 allowing the creation of a “theme park district,” but at that time with the Arizona Diamondbacks in mind.

That district's board could issue bonds to finance maintenance or renovation work. To repay the bonds, an additional 1% to 9% markup would be applied to sales of items such as tickets, merchandise and food. In the interview last month, Meruelo said the agreement would allow the project to be built without direct contributions from public money, but instead financed with a voluntary fee paid only by the people using the facilities.

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Mayor's spokeswoman: Kate Gallego is “against” tax breaks

The mayor's spokeswoman told The Republic's Taylor Seely on Thursday: “Tax abatement is essentially what creating a theme park district does – so she's opposed to it, according to the statement.”

Will the Coyotes be able to build an arena in time to bring hockey back to Arizona?

Republic's Corina Vanek contributed to this story.

More: Arizona Coyotes fans have been named the most loyal in the NHL following the team's move to Utah

Reach Jeremy Cluff at jeremy.cluff@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter @Jeremy_Cluff.

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