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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

To Sum Up Current Commanders, Coyotes Situations: It’s Complicated

  • The Commanders hire a Capitol Hill insider as the team continues its stadium pursuit.
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Coyotes’ current situation isn’t ‘ideal.’
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A pair of high-profile stadium and arena efforts are moving a step closer to reality, bringing much-discussed plans into sharper focus.

The Commanders have hired Kirtan Mehta, previously the chief of staff for Sen. John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.), as the club’s vice president of public affairs. The appointment of the political veteran arrives as the Josh Harris-owned team is still trying to close a stadium deal to develop a successor facility to Commanders Field, formerly known as FedEx Field. 

Those stadium discussions, which are complex in any one jurisdiction, in this case involve three spanning possibilities in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Perhaps the leading and likely the most popular site option among fans—the area where the team’s former home in D.C., RFK Stadium, sits—remains under consideration by Capitol Hill. A bill to turn federal control of that RFK Stadium land over to D.C., in turn allowing for the possibility of a new Commanders stadium being built there, could be taken up by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the next month, sources with knowledge of the legislation tell Front Office Sports.

As that proposed legislation progresses, the hire of Mehta marks a rising intent by the Commanders to deepen ties to political leaders in the area.

“The Commanders’ relationships with federal and local leaders are vital to our organization,” said Jason Wright, Commanders president. “We’re confident that Kirtan will partner powerfully with them to advance community and policy efforts that benefit our fans and the area at large.”

Desert Discussions

The impending move of the NHL’s Coyotes to Salt Lake City, meanwhile, is expected to become official following the conclusion of the team’s regular season Wednesday, bringing a sense of closure after weeks of turbulence surrounding the team.

Speaking Tuesday at the CAA World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles, organized by Sports Business Journal, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not confirm the anticipated timing or even the move to Utah at all. But he did acknowledge the rising challenges of the team’s current situation in Arizona, particularly playing in a 5,000-seat venue at Arizona State.

“Even under a best-case scenario, we’re looking at another three to five years [at Mullett Arena],” Bettman said. “We’re exploring options as to how to deal with that because, particularly for the players, it isn’t an ideal circumstance.”

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