Bucks arena removed from state budget, film at 11

I’m on WiFi made of tin cans and string this morning, but wanted to update you briefly on today’s news:

  • There’s a Wisconsin state budget plan, and the Milwaukee Bucks arena proposal isn’t in it. That doesn’t kill the deal, but it does make passage even dicier, especially in the state senate.
  • The New York Post says there’s a deal to move the Arizona Coyotes to Las Vegas, which the NHL has denied in especially strong language, calling it “garbage.” (Unless they mean the Post itself is garbage, which, well, point.)
  • Minnesota United‘s owners are expected to ask MLS for an extension on their July 1 stadium deadline. Not that anyone ever said what would happen when the deadline was reached, so who knows what an extension would mean, but anyway.

And that’s it for now. Will try to provide further updates later, interweb connectivity willing.

Columbus arena sparks opening of convenience store, bringing Twizzlers to struggling local economy

And now, here is an actual newspaper article from Columbus boasting about how the city’s new hockey arena prompted the opening of a 1300-square-foot convenience store:

“That’s the ideal tenant for that space,” said retail analyst Chris Boring, principal at Boulevard Strategies. “They’re not just filling space.”

With so many visitors, office workers and residents within a block or two of Nationwide Arena and the nearby Greater Columbus Convention Center, “it’s a no-brainer,” Boring said. “There are all kinds of places to eat and drink in the Arena District, but what if you just want a candy bar or a bottle of water? There’s really no place right now for that.”

In related news, the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview just sold another $16 million worth of bonds to help pay off its money-losing Chicago Fire MLS stadium, but this year a new gas station opened nearby.

NHL to take expansion bids from Vegas, Quebec, Seattle, etc. because MONEYYYYYY

The NHL is taking bids on expansion franchises starting July 6, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to expand, but does mean it’s testing the waters. And given the price tag, it’s easy to see why:

That’s kind of aggressive, considering that Forbes estimates the average NHL team to be worth $490 million, and given the markets we’d be talking about here (more on that in a minute), these teams would be below average. But then, the magazine’s team value figures always seem to lag a bit behind actual sale prices — as Forbes notes, there’s a bit of a bubble thanks to the fact that “Wall Street guys like Joshua Harris (New Jersey Devils) and Andrew Barroway (trying to buy a controlling interest in the Arizona Coyotes) are willing to pay a lot of money for hockey teams that lose money.” (It also doesn’t hurt that they can get huge tax breaks on their purchase price.)

The next question, obviously, is where, and everybody from Deadspin to the New York Times is assuming that one of the cities will be Las Vegas. This seems pretty daft from here — Las Vegas would be the second-smallest NHL TV market (ahead of only Buffalo), it’s in the middle of the Sun Belt where hockey franchises go to die, and it has a relatively poor permanent population. (A proposed Vegas team has managed to get $150 deposits on 11,500 season tickets, though those are refundable if there’s no team starting in 2016.) But it does have a new arena going up, and those things are guaranteed gold mines, right?

If Vegas were one team, the other would likely be either Quebec (where telecom giant Quebecor is almost certain to throw its hat in the ring) or Seattle (which has interest but still no solid NHL arena plan). Quebec would actually be the smallest media market in the NHL (smaller than Flint, Michigan!), but it’s in Canada, so maybe that compensates? Also, new arena!

If nothing else, all this means that Glendale should probably feel relatively secure in playing hardball with the Coyotes owners over their lease, since the NHL is unlikely to encourage the team to move to a new city if that would jeopardize a half-billion dollars in expansion fees. And with that, let’s go look as some photos of the under-construction Las Vegas arena:

Yeah, that, um, looks like an arena. With two levels of luxury suites, which I guess is standard these days, but makes for just awful views from the top deck. But hey, not like anyone’s likely to be sitting up there anyway, amirite?

Glendale doubles down on axing Coyotes lease, as NHL floats move threat rumors

Notwithstanding that “opportunity [for] dialogue” that Mayor Jerry Weiers mentioned last week, the Glendale city council yesterday reiterated that it’s moving to terminate its lease with the Arizona Coyotes, though it’s happy to renegotiate a new lease that doesn’t, you know, suck. The Coyotes management responded that it expects the city to honor the old lease, and until this all ends up in front of a judge, that’s pretty much going to be that.

Except, of course, for the NHL to be anonymously leaking threats that the Coyotes will move if this isn’t resolved:

Arizona Coyotes officials will explore relocation if the team loses a legal battle with the city of Glendale, an NHL source confirmed to TSN.

The source said team officials believe they can raise the cash required to pay other NHL team owners a relocation fee after an ownership shakeup this week.

Well, duh — I don’t think anyone thought a relocation fee was going to be the holdup if the Coyotes owners want to move. The bigger problems are 1) finding another city with an arena ready to move to that 2) would offer anything close to as generous a lease as the one the Coyotes are trying to enforce in Glendale and 3) overcoming league commissioner Gary Bettman’s commitment to hockey in the desert as his lasting legacy. Not that all that couldn’t happen eventually, of course, but jeez, the team had a lease option already to opt out as soon as next year — if they weren’t already “exploring relocation,” even just as a Plan B, they’d be subject to getting kicked out of the fraternity of sports team owners. But still, nice work, TSN senior corresponden Rick Westhead, at getting an exclusive scoop that just required reprinting without attribution what a guy at the league office no doubt wanted you to reprint.

Coyotes owners still threatening lawsuit vs. Glendale, but settle for restraining order for now

And while we’re on the topic of lawsuits, the Arizona Coyotes successfully got their temporary restraining order on Friday against the city of Glendale vacating their lease. That’s no real surprise, as for a TRO you pretty much just have to show that you’d be damaged if the action went through and then was later found to be illegal — the judge in the case didn’t even indicate whether Glendale has to keep making its $15 million a year “operating subsidy” payments to the Coyotes owners while the restraining order is in place, so it doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot.

We’re still all waiting on that promised $200 million lawsuit, meanwhile, which apparently needs to wait on the city actually informing the Coyotes officially of the lease termination, and also maybe until the Coyotes lawyers find a reason why they picked $200 million as the amount of damages. That’s $30 million more, it’s worth noting, than the entire team is worth based on its 2013 sale price.

And then there’s this:

Meanwhile, the city said it would hold a closed-door executive session on Tuesday following a possible breakthrough in the dispute.

“An opportunity for the two of us to discuss the issues has presented itself, and I am optimistic that with continued dialogue we can come to an agreement that satisfies both parties,” [Mayor Jerry] Weiers said.

Is it possible the Coyotes are willing to cut Glendale a break in exchange for keeping alive their annual city paychecks? Is Weiers backing down out of fear of a lawsuit? We’ll find out more tomorrow, maybe.

Coyotes threatening to sue Glendale for $200m, because in America you can sue for whatever you want

Two days into the brave new world of Glendale terminating the Arizona Coyotes‘ lease, and the first lawsuit has been announced! Let’s listen in:

“What Glendale did is outrageous, irrational and cannot be condoned,” Bettman said.

Wait, sorry, that’s the first Gary Bettman press statement. Let’s see, lawsuit, lawsuit, here we go:

After the meeting, attorney Nicholas Wood said the team would file for injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order, and file a $200 million lawsuit against the City.

Filing for an injunction? Makes sense. TRO? Also makes sense, especially since that’s just another form of injunction. Seeking $200 million in damages? That seems like it was just pulled out of somebody’s butt as a nice round number. (Glendale doesn’t even owe the Coyotes owners $200 million remaining on its lease subsidy deal, and in any event if a judge rules that the lease can’t be broken, the Coyotes still get that money.)

So where did the Coyotes get that number? Here’s a tweet from Wood that doesn’t shed any light on it, and here are articles from Yahoo! and NBC Sports that don’t either, and the Arizona Republic, and — okay, everyone is just repeating the one thing that Wood said without any more information, so we can stop looking now. I’d call the Coyotes myself, but it’s like 3 in the morning there (note: time zones not actually to scale), so it will have to remain a mystery for now.

Let’s see, what else we got today? Any more big round numbers pulled out of butts?

I think one of the consequences could be no NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, at least not in the near term. Same thing with expanding to Seattle. The league presumably would have to add two teams to keep a balanced schedule. After all, how could commissioner Gary Bettman add two more franchises to the 30-team league while there is so much uncertainty over the state of the Arizona franchise?

That could mean the NHL says goodbye to the $500 million expansion fee it was reportedly looking to get for each expansion team. adding a team in Las Vegas. That works out to $33 million per owner down the drain for the time being.

Yeah, that’s the stuff. I feel like I should chime in with some giant numbers of my own — maybe how much the newspaper industry in Arizona will suffer if this Coyotes saga ever finally drags to a conclusion — but the “billion” key on my laptop is broken.

Coyotes’ sweetheart lease is dead, long live whatever the hell comes next

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:

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!

Glendale council votes 5-2 to tell Coyotes to take their lease and shove it

And it’s on:

Clearly the NHL is going to have to write a new press release. Way more to come in the morning.

Red Wings almost ready to build new taxpayer-subsidized arena, are Pistons next in line?

The Detroit Historic District Commission is set to vote this afternoon on whether to allow Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch to demolish the historic (but long-vacant) Park Avenue Hotel to make way for his arena district construction project, which promises to draw to a close the city’s debates about sports arena construc — oh, come on now, seriously?

Pistons owner Tom Gores launched Project “Big Math,” a sweeping idea for change and economic growth for the city of Detroit and state of Michigan, when he hired agent Arn Tellem last week as vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment.

One of Tellem’s first agenda items when he takes over Aug. 3 is to explore bringing the Pistons downtown from Auburn Hills. … The Pistons have two viable options. They can move into the new Red Wings arena, which is scheduled to open in 2017, and share it with Olympia Entertainment. There is also a Hail Mary option to tear down the half-built Wayne County Jail and build an arena in conjunction with Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert.

This is still pretty much just at the rumor stage — and the Pistons say they have “no plans” to move from Auburn Hills, for what it’s worth — but still, there’s at least the chance that Detroit may end up talking about building not one but two downtown arenas. Not bad for a city that’s bankrupt. Or, looked at another way, not good.

Glendale council calls meeting to discuss canceling Coyotes’ sweetheart lease, team owner flips out

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?