All that bickering about just how raw a deal Glendale is getting from its lease with the Arizona Coyotes turns out to be about more than just PR. The Glendale city council has scheduled a special meeting today to vote on whether to cancel the city’s lease agreement with the Coyotes, under which Glendale pays the team’s owners $15 million a year, and gets back about $6.6 million a year in revenue, so long as you count things like sales taxes on arena spending as “getting back.”
The out clause that the council plans on using, according to the meeting agenda, is a state statute that allows cities to cancel contracts if one of the city’s negotiators jumps to working for the other side in the deal. Which is exactly what happened in Glendale, where city attorney Craig Tindall, after being fired by the city in early 2013, immediately took a similar position with the Coyotes.
The city council’s obvious goal here is to get the Coyotes owners to renegotiate the arena lease — you can tell by the way they asked them if they’d renegotiate the arena lease. “That’s not going to happen,” Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc replied, while issuing a press release calling the city’s actions “completely ludicrous” and threatening legal action if the city tries to nullify the lease. (UPDATE: The Coyotes Twitter account also changed its location in the last day or so to read “Still in Glendale, Arizona.” Everybody’s a comedian.)
It’s certainly a bit of a weird gambit — it sounds like the council pretty much blindsided LeBlanc on this one — but not an entirely unreasonable way to play hardball with the team over a lease that’s widely considered to be one of the worst in sports. After all, the Coyotes owners — all 206 of them over the past few years — haven’t been shy about using their ability to threaten to break things off with Glendale as leverage to extract more favorable terms in their arena deal. Exploring whether the city can call the whole thing off on it own would be a logical step on the council’s part; next up would be a study to evaluate whether the city would be better off getting someone else to run the arena, even if it meant the Coyotes leaving town. It would have been nice to have some of this due diligence before everyone sat down and signed the deal, but better late than never, right?