In case you somehow missed not only this site’s brief update last night but Twitter going absolutely batshit, yes, the Glendale city council voted last night to terminate the Arizona Coyotes lease deal, effective immediately. The grounds: The Coyotes hired former city attorney Craig Tindall in August 2013, about seven weeks after the council approved the lease deal that Tindall had helped craft an early version of, and state conflict-of-interest law allowed the city to then call for an annulment of the whole lease.
What happened next, in addition to the Twitter batshittery:
- Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc issued a statement promising to “exhaust any and all legal remedies against the city of Glendale for this blatant violation of its contractual obligations to us,” and also called the move “not ethical in the court of public opinion,” which I’m pretty sure is not an actual court.
- Everybody on earth started speculating wildly about where the Coyotes could relocate to if their lease is null and void (Quebec, Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City, this place) and whether the team will even play next season in Glendale (probably, if only because the only city with an arena ready to go is Quebec, and not only does the NHL have concerns about shifting a team from the West to the East but the owners of the Quebec arena want their own team, not a tenant).
- A Phoenix city councilmember started dropping hints about building a new arena in Phoenix for both the Suns and Coyotes, because of course he did.
The important thing for now is that — barring a court reversal — the old Coyotes lease that was signed in 2013 after years of battles is now dead. This means that Glendale can stop paying $15 million a year in “operating subsidies” to LeBlanc (though it’s still on the hook for $12 million a year in debt payments on the arena), and LeBlanc can stop paying Glendale about $5 million a year in rent, ticket surcharges, parking fees, and a cut of naming-rights money that he agreed to in the lease deal. (The rest of the money that LeBlanc claims Glendale is getting in return is sales taxes, which the Coyotes have to pay regardless unless they leave town, and which Coyotes fans need to pay regardless unless they go with them.) It’s the end to one of the most notorious deals in sports subsidy history, one extracted by the team owners — not LeBlanc, but the previous team owners, I honestly forget which one, there have been so many — by threatening to leave town if their demands weren’t met. To which the new city council that took office since then has now said: “We’re happy to renegotiate something that makes more sense for us, but otherwise, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
It’s a reasonable move for a city that doesn’t have much to lose — even if LeBlanc wins in court, the city is no worse off than when it started, and thanks to that godawful out clause it’s not like the lease was going to guarantee that the Coyotes stuck around anyway. It’s just the latest in a recent string of local elected officials actually standing up to sports team owners and demanding to be treated as equal negotiating adversaries, not doormats, and — oh, look, the article I wrote for Vice Sports on this mini-trend is just now going live! Nice timing, Vice Sports!