Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway renewed his team’s lease on its Glendale home arena for another season on Friday, just as he did last year, and just as his predecessor Anthony LeBlanc did two years before that. This would seem to put the final nail in the coffin of any notion that the team has lots of other cities eager to throw money at it for an arena, as LeBlanc insisted more than three years ago, and so maybe Glendale can ratchet down its threat level a bit from DEFCON 1.
At least, it would seem so to me, but clearly I do not understand the modern journalism, because here is how the Arizona Republic reported it:
But a one-year lease does nothing to secure the team in the city, or the state, for the long term.
The team has looked to Phoenix and the East Valley in recent years, and there is speculation that the franchise will leave the state altogether, perhaps for Houston, if it doesn’t get the investment it’s looking for.
Perhaps for Houston. Not that Houston isn’t a big city — it is, I’ve checked! — but if Barroway or LeBlanc or anyone had really wanted to move to Houston, they could have done so anytime in that last three years, so this is hardly some new looming threat. In fact, if you click through that Republic link, you get to a Houston Chronicle story theorizing that now that the Coyotes are moving to the Central Division it would make it easier for them to move to Houston, which is one of those typical fan conspiracy theories that ignores the fact that no team in any sport has ever moved somewhere just to make divisional alignments more convenient, so come on, seriously.
The Coyotes absolutely could move out of Glendale, and even out of Arizona altogether, and maybe it would even arguably be a good idea, given its perpetually poor attendance figures. (A good idea for its owners and the NHL, I mean, not for poor Coyotes fans who’ve suffered through this mess and then would end up with bupkis.) But the team re-upping on a new one-year lease is not a crisis, it’s a sign of an emerging new equilibrium. And talk of putting money into arena upgrades to lure the team owners into signing a longer-term lease, as Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps has suggested, is only worth it if the city can get a long extension in exchange for not too much in upgrade cash — and, ideally, increased rent to help pay back the upgrade costs from new team revenues.
Trying to negotiate something that can work for all sides is always a good thing. Just so long as you keep in mind that at the end of the day you can always walk away from the table if it’s too rich for your blood, especially since it seems like the worst-case scenario, in the short term at least, is likely to be more of these annual Arizona Republic scare headlines when the team renews its lease for yet another year.