SCOTTSDALE-Government officials in this Phoenix suburb have demanded more proof that the developer of a $550-million sports and entertainment complex on the city’s southern edge has the financial wherewithal to get the development done.

Local leaders have asked Ellman Cos., a Phoenix-based investment and real estate development company, to provide reams of financial records that can show that the firm has the cash and financial backing to successfully redevelop the Los Arcos Project.

Ellman Cos. has worked for two years to turn an aging mall on the southern rim of this upscale suburb into a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility. A 17,000-seat ice hockey arena will anchor the 72-acre project, which will also include movie theaters, office space, lofts, restaurants, retail space and an aquarium.

The National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes are planning to move into the new area from their current home in Downtown Phoenix when the new stadium is completed in 2002. Ellman is already busy trying to secure the purchase of the Coyotes for $87 million.

The company, with financial partner and former hockey star Wayne Gretzky, has already made $16.5 million in payments on the team. Ellman officials say another $30 million has been spent on the redevelopment of the mall, which they believe is evidence enough that they’re dedicated to completing the project.

“Over the past three years, we have demonstrated a financial capacity and commitment to this project,” says Bob Kaufman, a senior vice president with Ellman. “We’ll give an appropriate response to the council.”

Yet, the city’s stakes are high too. It’s expected to spend at least $100 million on the project during the first 10 years, though the new development is supposed to return at least that amount to city coffers through increased sales tax revenue.

City leaders have given Ellman Cos. until Aug. 21 to submit the financial data they requested.

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