Last-minute Coyotes subsidy vote gets last-minute Seattle buyer move threat

The Glendale city council is set to meet tonight to discuss the proposed $15 million a year Phoenix Coyotes lease subsidy, and just in the nick of time, here comes a move threat to ensure that the council members keep their heads focused in the right place, by NHL standards. Chris Daniels of KING 5 TV reports that two “New York based investors,” Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, met with Seattle officials two weeks ago to discuss buying the Coyotes and moving them to Seattle:

McGinn said they were serious enough, that it led to a conversation between him and NHL Commissioner Bettman.

“I let him know of the situation here, and that we were supportive of bringing the NHL to Seattle,” McGinn said. “We have Key Arena, so we talked about the potential of them being in Key Arena, while we continue to work on a new arena plan.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly would not characterize the discussions between McGinn and Bettman, and told KING5 the conversation was “like any number of conversations the Commissioner has all the time with a variety of people.”

So who exactly are these guys? Bartoszek is a billionaire former oil trader who tried and failed to buy the New York Mets a couple of years ago, and ended up with a minority share of the New York Yankees instead. Lanza, according to his official bio, “has varied experience in the security industry, both domestically and internationally, as a project consultant in business development for both 3DRS International, NSM Surveillance, and Spear International,” which sure sounds like a long-winded way of saying “doesn’t actually have a job.” His dad used to be COO of Lockheed Martin, though, which I guess gives him some cred as a Seattle local, if you squint hard enough.

Whether this pair is actually serious about buying the Coyotes and moving them to Seattle, who knows? The team would have to play at Key Arena at least at first, until Ch

ris Hansen’s SoDo arena is completed; and since that can’t begin construction until Seattle has an NBA franchise, something that’s likely at least a couple of years away, you’re talking about at least four or five years of an NHL team playing in an arena that would have to have hockey shoehorned into a basketball setting, leading to seating plans along the lines of what the New York Islanders will be dealing with in Brooklyn. Which, admittedly, might still be preferable to playing before empty houses in Glendale, but it’s still an awfully big gamble for a pair of sports novices — not to mention for the NHL, which might be better off getting a bidding war going between Seattle, Quebec, and maybe some other cities if it decides to finally move the Coyotes out of Arizona.

For now, though, Bettman and Daly can remain noncommittal, leaving the Glendale city council to imagine the moving vans instantly pulling up should they reject the Coyotes’ lease subsidy demands. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, there are three members of the council solidly in favor of giving the Coyotes what they want, and three solidly opposed — leaving the deciding vote in the hands of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, old “Glendale is not your cash register” himself.

The PBJ notes that as a state legislator, Weiers sponsored a short-lived bill to kick back state sales tax revenue to local governments to be used for sports subsidies. That’s certainly the kind of thing that elected officials might consider to be “Coyotes-related revenue streams” — no, not every dollar spent within two miles of an arena is because of the Coyotes, but they can pretend it is — but it’s also solidly in the jurisdiction of the state legislature, not Glendale, so it would require kicking this whole Coyotes mess into the state’s lap. Which I suppose would be one way of Weiers getting out of this pickle: Hey, I came up with a plan to keep the Coyotes, it was up to the stupid state to approve it!

We may get some hints of where all this is headed at the council meeting tonight. I doesn’t look to me like there’ll be any streaming video of the meeting; if I’m wrong about this, I’m sure I’ll be quickly corrected in comments.

3 comments on “Last-minute Coyotes subsidy vote gets last-minute Seattle buyer move threat

  1. Isn’t Mayor Weiers in on the closed meetings negotiating a lease? If that’s the case and he’s the deciding vote, safe to say the Coyotes are safe in Glendale.

  2. Well, it turns out that “NBA to Seattle” still isn’t that crazy an idea:

    I do think that the arena will be completed by 2017, but you never know. Just couple this with the idea that we could, in theory, be voting in June 2015 on the arena deal, and all of a sudden, you’re no longer looking at 2017. You really can delay a project to death.

  3. Neil;

    Daly characterized their conversation with McGinn (and maybe the prospective owners, though it wasn’t made clear who was in on the conversation) as “one of the kinds of expressions of interest the commissioner gets all the time”.

    Ok, so that’s clearly not true. It is a cause for celebration in the NHL offices when someone who actually might have some money makes an expression of interest. The “routine” expressions of interest are all from guys who’d like to get in on the sports ownership extortion game, but would like to do so with no money down and some sort of noncommital pay something whenever you think you can scheme. And have an absolute out whenever they want to exercise, preferably with some sort of golden parachute and a hearty “thanks for trying”.

    If I understand the story correctly, the prospective owners spoke to the Mayor and the Mayor contacted the NHL.

    It’s enough for a non-move non-threat threat, but it isn’t particularly serious in my book. Even if these guys do buy the team (and Gosbee/RSE are well ahead of them on that front), they’d be better off spending 2-3 dead duck seasons in a nice arena in Glendale than they would fouling their nest in a lousy hockey building in Seattle. Excited fans (and there are some in Seattle, certainly) would turn up, try to watch the game @ Key, and most would not ever come back.