Coyotes owners declare allergy to competitive bidding for arena lease, may seek new home in Phoenix

And the other shoe has dropped in the Glendale arena management kerfuffle:

When the City of Glendale receives bids from companies hoping to manage Gila River Arena, the Coyotes won’t be among them.

“The Coyotes have no intention of participating in the Glendale RFP (request for proposal),” Coyotes president, CEO and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc said Wednesday in a terse and brief response.

The story so far: The Coyotes owners had a crazy-sweetheart lease deal with Glendale that paid them almost $8 million a year just to run the arena, then Glendale officials found a loophole that would let them terminate the lease, then the two sides agreed on a new lease that expires in 2017, then Glendale announced it would put in place a competitive bidding process for who’d get to run the arena. Which sounded like a great idea — at least it would determine once and for all what the market will bear in terms of an arena management fee — to everyone except the Coyotes owners, who now say if they have to compete for the right to be paid to manage their own arena, they want no part of it.

Now, there’s nothing stopping the Coyotes from continuing to play in Glendale under someone else’s arena management, but Arizona Sports speculates that the team’s owners have other ideas:

So what does it mean for the Coyotes’ future in Glendale? LeBlanc wouldn’t comment other than to say: “We are committed to Arizona.”

Glaring in its omission from that statement was the word, “Glendale.”

While it is likely the team will remain in Glendale for the remainder of its agreement with the city, the efforts to find another home in the Valley are likely in overdrive now.

Speculation on the possibility of a new downtown arena for the Suns and Coyotes has existed for at least a year. So has the idea of building an arena along the 101 corridor in Scottsdale.

Old arena not working out financially? Just build a new one! Surely that will be the solution, and if it’s not, hopefully you’ve worked out a way to walk away from it debt-free, like you did with the previous one.

Of course, there’s no way on earth the Coyotes will get a new arena anywhere approved and built by 2017 — there isn’t even a hint of a site, let alone a budget or a determination of who would pay for it — so they’re going to have to be somebody’s tenants for at least a season or two. That could be in Glendale, or it could be the Suns‘ arena in Phoenix, which is notably awkward for hockey, one reason the team moved to Glendale in the first place. Maybe the Coyotes owners can even try to get a bidding war going between the two cities — presumably they’re okay with bidding so long as they’re not the ones doing it, right?




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21 comments on “Coyotes owners declare allergy to competitive bidding for arena lease, may seek new home in Phoenix

  1. Or, they are setting themselves up for relocation. They’ve lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Arizona, and maybe the owners are saying enough is enough.

  2. There’s no place outside Arizona called “Arizona.” I checked:

  3. This seem’s like the best potential move for Glendale; the reality is that the Coyotes will stay there, under an arena with someone else as manager, because there is no way they are simply going to shutter the team over this, unless the NHL owners approve of some crazy scheme to allow them to take a year off or simply be a traveling team.

  4. @Neil – There is always Arizona, Manitoba, who would probably love to have a pro-Hockey team. Or if they’re ambitious, they can try 793 Arizona in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter

  5. Neil –

    But this could be the first step in a “See how hard we tried to stay, fans? Please keep buying our sweaters” ploy.

    jmauro –

    You’ve got to think, at least the asteroid would be a place where you can normally see ice.

  6. Taking a bit of a different tack on this….

    If the club won’t bid for the operating rights in a competitive environment, it would seem that there is some truth to the suggestion made years ago (when the original paid-to-play deal was signed) that the $8m figure was far too high for an arena management fee and that it constituted a significant operating subsidy to the team (something they vehemently denied at the time).

    Seems to me like their present actions more or less now admit that that was true. What other reason could they have for not wanting to operate the arena they play in (but do not own) if the $8m figure is fair and equitable for just arena management?

  7. “We are committed to Arizona.”

    I’m not sold. Weren’t the Raiders committed to Oakland, then LA, now Oakland again?

    Weren’t the Rams committed to LA?

    Weren’t the Sonics committed to Seattle?

    “Committed” doesn’t mean the same thing to you and me than it does to sports teams.

    Vegas is an alternative. I don’t know how good an alternative, but it’s an alternative.

  8. Vegas is already in line for an expansion team, though. Would the NHL cancel it and move the Coyotes there instead? Which do you think would be cheaper for new owners to buy?

  9. The NHL would be in favor of the move that gets the team to the market in which they want a team. I think they’re pretty flexible.

  10. They would much prefer expansion money for both LV and Quebec City. And I suspect they will get it (though I’m not sold they will get the $500m number they have thrown out as the price for each franchise).

    There are other temporary parking spaces for the Coyotes if the league determines to move them (and they would have options in both the US and Canada if it is a relocation, though a temporary relocation to a Canadian base is less likely IMO).

    If they need a temp parking spot, the league could do worse than taking over the team again and keeping it where it is short term (they will lose bucketloads of money again, but then, it was the BoG that approved the move to Phx in the first place so…). Kansas City would be the most obvious temp option, with several others not too far behind.

  11. Maybe I’m missing something, but that photo of the crowd in the old US Airways Arena doesn’t really scream awkward perspective. Strikes me as cozy and crowded.

  12. Check out the seats at the far end that can’t see the goal they’re nearest to, because directly underneath them.

    Of course, the Islanders will be dealing with the same thing in Brooklyn. And with the Coyotes’ attendance, they could easily just not sell those seats and have no problem.

  13. @Neil

    I’ve always wondered why the league pushed for the Brooklyn move when the whole reason for the Glendale arena was because the problem that the Islanders will have in Brooklyn is the same problem the Coyotes had in downtown Phoenix. Is there no way that they can renovate the Brooklyn arena in a way that allows the seats on the other side to be retractable and thus center the ice?

    What is behind those seats? While I’ve been to Barclays twice, I’m sort of confused on what is located on the lower level of the building. I know that the loading dock is in the southeast corner of the building but not sure if that’s behind the area that has the seats that currently can’t be pushed back. If so, then I can understand why it would be tough to renovate because there is limited space and it’s tough to find a new spot for something as complex as a dock.

    OTOH, if it’s one of those high priced clubs, I’m sure they can figure something out. The Nets still have the shoot around court out near the front of the building. Now that the Nets are about to open their own practice facility, why not do away with that court and relocate what’s behind the seats over to where the court is and then renovate the seats so they can retract and at least give the building a legitimate hockey experience. Otherwise, the move to Glendale and the ridiculous tax expenditures look hypocritical.

  14. Behind those seats is the entry lobby to the arena, and then eventually the subway station. I suppose in theory you could expand it, but it wouldn’t be cheap.

    The problem is that when the cost of the place was rising and credit was hard to come by, Ratner “value engineered” the whole thing to save money (though it still cost almost $1B), which meant eliminating the larger hockey footprint. I don’t think the NHL particularly pushing for the Islanders to move there, but Wang apparently figured he’d rather have 12,000 good seats in Brooklyn than 20,000 in Nassau County. Or he just got fed up and said, “Screw it, Brooklyn’s trendy, maybe this will work out.” Either way, here we are.

  15. @Neil

    Thanks and yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought. You would be looking at X amount of dollars and Barclays/Islanders probably figure that the team won’t sell out most of their games so the amount of money gained by a few extra seats sold wouldn’t offset the cost of renovation.

    Here’s what’s interesting though. Islander ownership gets a set amount of money each season regardless of how many seats are sold. It’s then up to Barclays management to sell enough seats to make a profit or a number above what they are giving the Islanders per season.

    Here’s a pic of the arena and the ice layout.

    In order to center the ice, you would only have to move the ice around what appears to be around 20 feet to the right. I’m no engineer. I would think there is some way to do a cost effective renovation but I guess not or else someone would’ve thought of it already.

  16. Oh, you mean move the ice the other direction, to center it on the existing center of the arena? Then you’d have obstructed view seats on both ends. Also, there’s a 30-story building going up on the other end, so that ain’t moving anytime soon.

  17. Got it. I didn’t realize you would have obstructed views on both ends. I guess fitting Barclays into that tight space really forced them to build a much steeper arena than I thought. That scoreboard really looks bad off center as well. Pretty bum deal all around but I guess it’s better than the QC Islanders/Nordiques if you’re an NY Islander fan. Better to have obstructed views and a goofy scoreboard than no team at all.

  18. The Islanders were offered the chance to be part of the Ratner arena plan from the beginning. When FCR wanted, you know, actual cash up front for the building the Islanders’ owner decided he wanted to build “his” lighthouse project on Long Island and have the county mostly pay for it ($4Bn in total development as I recall, but the arena itself nd a significant portion of the rest was on the public dime).

    As the county was pretty much broke, that wasn’t ever going to happen. But Wang told Ratner “no thanks” anyway, thus walking away from his only real option in the NY area. Many of us said at the time that was a huge mistake…. which it seems to have been since he ended up moving to an arena that Ratner sensibly just built for basketball after his potential partner walked away.

    If he wasn’t a practitioner of a particularly curious brand of alternative thinking, Charles Wang could have his team playing in an 18,000 seat hockey arena in Brooklyn this year. Instead, he’s playing on a basketball court with 14,000 seats – many of which don’t really face the action.

    Add in Rick DiPietro’s contract and the fact that Chuck made his backup goalie the new general manager a few years ago (despite the player having no management experience of any kind…) and you really have to ask yourself why anyone buys a ticket to watch Wang’s team….

  19. Just what the Phoenix area needs, another publicly funded stadium. While they’re at it, go ahead and throw $100m+ to lure the Astros and “keep” the Brewers in AZ in March, and why not MLS just for kicks.

  20. Call them the Desert Dogs or the Coyotes.
    Never refer to them as Arizona.
    Split home games between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
    In plain sight, move the team to Vegas.

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