I’m still on the road (had a great time at tonight’s Oakland A’s game — no sewage malfunctions at all!), but wanted to stop by to report on tonight’s vote by the Glendale city council, which approved the plan to give $15 million a year in subsidies for the next 15 years to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for the team staying put for five years and paying way less than that in rent, ticket surcharges, and other stuff.
With the council split 3-3 and Mayor Jerry Weiers skeptical about the plan, somebody was going to have to flip to get the subsidy package passed, and somebody did:
Councilman Manny Martinez said he supported the deal after the potential team buyer offered more financial guarantees to the city, including a partnership with a successful events-management firm and repayment under certain circumstances if team revenue projections don’t pan out.
“These two things put an entirely different picture before us tonight,” Martinez said.
[UPDATE: The above from USA Today notwithstanding, it was actually councilmember Sammy Chavira who flipped from the no to the yes column, complete with a poorly timed metaphor about firemen rushing into a burning building.]
I wasn’t able to watch the hearing itself (was at the A’s game, remember?), but that “repayment under certain circumstances,” as near as I can understand it, is a promise that if the new Coyotes owners exercise an out clause in their lease and leave after five years of losses, the team would pay the city for any losses it incurred beyond $6 million. That’s something, I suppose — though given that this was promised in exchange for Glendale dropping its demand for its own five-year out clause (the team get break the lease in 2018 if it wants, but the city is stuck in it through 2028), and given that I’m not clear on how “losses” will be calculated for the purpose of this clause, it’s a pretty meager concession.
The Glendale council also considered bids by several other arena operators, some of which offered to run the Jobing.com Arena for just $6 million a year in subsidies, but according to USA Today, those were rejected because they “couldn’t guarantee NHL hockey.” So in essence, the four members of the Glendale council who voted for this deal decided that it’s worth paying $9 million a year for the next 15 years just to have 40 home hockey games a season. That’s about $18 per game per fan who actually shows up to Coyotes games, or nearly half what the fans themselves are paying — and they, unlike Glendale taxpayers overall, are at least actually getting hockey tickets for their money.
The deal — which also includes the team changing its name to the Arizona Coyotes, which helps Glendale because, um, tourists might hear the name and decide to come to the state and accidentally stumble upon Glendale? — will only be finalized if the sale of the team goes through by August 5th, which is reportedly not a stumbling block, but then, this is the Coyotes we’re talking about, so probably best to believe it when we see it. Assuming that happens, though, Coyotes fans can look forward to at least five more seasons of their team being in town, even if they have to buy all new gear now that says “Arizona” on it. And Glendale residents can look forward to at least five more years, if not 15, of sending checks to the local hockey team — plus, one assumes, all sorts of exciting debates about what public buildings to sell off next.