Glendale mayor seeks to overturn Coyotes lease after email shows councilmembers talked in secret

It’s baaaaaaaaaaack!

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers on Monday asked the state attorney general to investigate a previously undisclosed meeting of City Council members and an Arizona Coyotes attorney last June, days before the council approved a $225 million agreement with the team…

Violations of the Open Meeting Law can rescind actions taken by elected officials, which could potentially void Glendale’s deal with the team, which was then called the Phoenix Coyotes.

It’s been just slightly over a year since the Arizona Coyotes signed a new 15-year lease where the city of Glendale will pay them $15 million a year to play hockey in the arena that Glendale built for them. (They were the Phoenix Coyotes then, but as part of the lease the team owners agreed to change its name. But not to “Glendale Coyotes,” that’d be crazy.) It was one of the most generous sports deals in history, and only passed after councilmember Sammy Chavira made a last-second switch, so if it turns out that the whole thing was illegal, that’d be kind of a big deal.

Now, Mayor Weiers opposed the lease deal, so it’s not entirely unsurprising that he’s looking into trying to undo it. But according to emails obtained by the Arizona Republic, the evidence is kind of damning: Councilmember Gary Sherwood emailed councilmember Manny Martinez that he and councilmember Yvonne Knaack “spent over an hour with [incoming Coyotes attorney] Nick Wood last night,” and that “Sammy [Chavira] is already on board as he was with us last night.” Adding self-incrimincation to injury, Sherwood added, “Manny, please delete this email after you’ve read it.”

(Asked about this by the Republic, Sherwood defended holding secret discussions outside of public view by saying that he and Knaack only spoke with Wood over the phone, then spoke with Martinez and Chavira later. Which would still likely be a violation of the state Open Meeting Law, but hey, it worked for Cobb County.)

We’re still a long way from the Coyotes deal coming close to being overturned — among other things, even if last year’s vote turns out to be illegal, the council could just vote to reaffirm the new lease, this time without any hanky-panky. But if nothing else, this means we have more Glendale craziness to look forward to, which is always fun.

Broward mayor seeks analysis of costs of letting Panthers leave, ignoring 14 years left on lease

Well, now, this is interesting, kind of:

You might not be able to tell from her @bestmom39 handle, but Barbara Sharief is mayor of Broward County, and she here seems to be indicating that she’s asking an economic consultant to do a cost/benefit analysis of letting the Florida Panthers move out of the county rather than giving them $80 million. How much the Panthers’ presence is worth to Broward is a reasonable analysis to ask for — though given that the Panthers’ lease isn’t up until 2028, and Panthers owner Vincent Viola isn’t actually promising to stay any longer that I can tell in exchange for the $80 million, it’s worth wondering if maybe Sharief is asking the wrong question.

Red Wings promise to build “deconstructed” arena with public’s $300 million

The Detroit Red Wings issued renderings of their planned $450 million arena yesterday, and it’s … kind of interesting-looking, I guess?

Those buildings surrounding the arena are actually part of the arena, with the space between that and the arena structure proper being the concessions concourses. (Another rendering shows what appear to be glass roofs over the concourses, maybe?) The Red Wings are calling this a “deconstructed” design, and it’s something interesting to try, anyway, if only because it would make the arena a bit less monolithic from the outside. (Setting the arena floor 32 feet below ground level would help, too.)

It’s still not necessarily worth spending $300 million in public money and free land on, of course. But since that’s now water under the bridge, at least it’ll be nice if they can avoid a major public eyesore.

Sharks could move from San Jose without reworked cable deal, says notoriously unreliable columnist

San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy has speculated wildly before, so take this with a huge grain of salt, but: Purdy is now reporting that the owners of the San Jose Sharks are so unhappy with the cable TV deal that their former CEO signed in 2009 that they’ve brought in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to threaten that they’ll move out of San Jose if they don’t get more TV money:

Bettman has contacted high-level honchos at Comcast corporate offices in Philadelphia to see if the Sharks’ local television deal can be reworked. Comcast is the parent company of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, which broadcasts Shark games. So far, the Bettman talks have not been fruitful…

In the most extreme version of the narrative, there is no creative solution and the Sharks continue to drain money. Plattner then tires of the red ink and decides to move the team outside the Bay Area market — where he could negotiate a better TV deal and abandon his current one here.

Sounds extreme. And almost unthinkable. That is likely why Bettman became involved. Comcast is also the parent company of NBC, which holds the NHL national broadcast rights. The decision to award an outdoor game to the Bay Area next season, which will soon be announced at either AT&T Park (most likely) or Levis Stadium (still possible), could be a bone thrown out to Comcast in hopes of currying favor.

Purdy then drops that line of thinking and talks about how the Sharks may want a new arena “sooner rather than later,” because their current one in 21 years old and maybe Santa Clara could build a hockey rink to go with their new San Francisco 49ers stadium and … it’s either team-prompted trial balloons or a desperate attempt to fill column inches and get hits on a slow news day. You make the call.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets arena still a money pit for taxpayers

This time last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ Nationwide Arena was reported to be turning a $500,000-a-year profit since its takeover by Franklin County in a much-maligned bailout plan — a profit that disappears once you take into account that the county is subsidizing arena operations with $4 million a year in subsidies. And how are things going now?

The arena spent most of its second year under public ownership operating at a deficit.

A recent rally, thanks to special events that included Bruce Springsteen, Cher and Demi Lovato, has nudged the arena $426,000 into the black, according to the latest revenue report.

Again, that’s “in the black” if you don’t count the annual county subsidies to the arena, meaning the building is actually losing more than $3 million a year, but Franklin County taxpayers are making up the difference.

And why is this, tell us, Columbus Dispatch?

Put simply, the contracts allow everyone else to make money from the arena except taxpayers.

The Blue Jackets take all concession and parking revenue for all hockey-related events. Performers, such as Springsteen, demand a certain percentage of all ticket sales (usually 85 percent or more) before agreeing to come to Columbus.

The public also pays for improvements inside the arena, such as the nets on the hockey goals. More than $900,000 in public money was spent in the past year to replace and repair seats.

That’s right: Columbus area taxpayers are paying for hockey nets for a team that keeps 100% of the revenues from hockey games. Also, cue the jokes about why they need to replace seats when they’ve barely been used in the first place.

Flames exec after nine straight years of sellouts: This arena blows, we need a new one

The last time we heard anything about the Calgary Flames‘ arena demands was nearly two years ago, when team execs said they were watching the Edmonton Oilers‘ plans closely; before that, it was way back in 2009 when team CEO Ken King said he hoped to start construction on a new building “as soon as we can.”

Cue Flames president for hockey operations Brian Burke, who yesterday let loose with both barrels at the 31-year-old Calgary Saddledome, calling it “a 1988 building” and “embarrassing”:

“An update on our new home? You know what? We need a new building. Obviously, everyone knows that,” said Burke, president of hockey operations for the Flames, responding to a question from the audience. “We have the finest state-of-the-art 1988 building in the (National Hockey League).”

This is, of course, a time-honored tradition in sports, slagging your current home in an attempt to shame elected officials into helping you build a new one. Of course, given that nothing is imminent on that front — even King admitted back in January that “It’s our hope to announce something, I guess when we’re ready, and we’re not there yet” — you’d think he’d want to worry about driving fans away by telling them their home arena is a dump, but given that the Flames have sold out every game for the last nine years, maybe not. Though it does make you wonder why they “need a new building,” except as a way to make more revenue off of luxury suites and the like, which would more honestly be stated as “We want more money.”

MSG now earning more than $50m a year in property tax breaks

The New York city council is gearing up for another run at Madison Square Garden’s 32-year-old full property tax exemption, and the city’s Independent Budget Office has a new estimate of how much MSG’s owners will get from it: $54 million in 2015, based on the projected increased value of a renovated Garden. The total value of MSG’s exemption now stands at a whopping $541 million*.

While the IBO doesn’t make policy recommendations, it just presents policy options, economist George Sweeting makes it pretty clear what the agency thinks of the MSG tax break, noting that “there is broad consensus within the economics field that government subsidies for sports facilities are not an effective use of scarce public resources,” that the Garden’s is the only property-tax exemption that applies only to a single property and is open-ended (most other property tax breaks end after a number of years, but the state legislature neglected to include a sunset provision in this case), and any threat that may have existed in 1982 of the Knicks and Rangers leaving town has long since gone by the wayside.

Of course, the council already voted once before to axe the MSG tax break, in 2008, but it didn’t accomplish anything because the tax exemption is enshrined in state law, it’s impossible to get the New York state legislature to do anything, really. Unless you’re a rich guy looking for a tax break, in which case the three men in a room would be happy to serve you.

*[UPDATE: IBO confirms that $541 million is the present value of the tax exemption over the next 30 years, net of tax breaks that would be available to any company, not just MSG. So allowing the tax break to remain in place for another 30 years would cost New York City $541 million in present-value 2014 dollars.]

B.C. city bails on minor-league hockey deal after 5 years, $77m in losses

It’s not often that you see a city decide to cut its losses and jettison a deal to bring a pro sports team to town, but that’s just what has happened in the small British Columbia city of Abbotsford, which has terminated its deal with the minor-league Abbotsford Heat hockey franchise after five years and $7.2 million in losses:

The [Calgary] Flames were persuaded to leave town for $5.5-million, as Abbotsford was staring at annual losses of about $2-million, estimated at a total of $11-million, before the deal expired. The hockey team likely will move to New York State. While Abbotsford has cut off potential losses, it is left with a gleaming arena – including 15 luxury boxes – with no primary tenant.

The deal for the Flames’ top minor-league club was supposed to last ten years, but was apparently a disaster for several completely foreseeable reasons: Abbotsford is Vancouver Canucks fan territory, it’s a huge travel distance from the rest of the AHL, etc. Thanks to this terrible planning, plus one of those horrible “Sure, we’ll cover all your team’s losses, why not?” deals that someone should really be staging interventions when elected officials even consider them, the city will now be on the hook for a total of $12.7 million in subsidies and buyout, plus the initial $64 million it paid to build the Abbotsford Centre, but at least maybe now it can book some more concerts that Canucks fans won’t mind going to see.

But I know what you’re thinking: Enough about Abbotsford, what does this say about Chilliwack? Never let it be said I don’t have you covered.

http://www.theprogress.com/opinion/255554361.html

Bruins to renovate Garden using actual own money their actual own selves

Not every team owner is insisting that they need public money to do renovations for their 1990s-era arenas. The owners of Boston’s TD Garden, who also own the Bruins, just announced $70 million in upgrades that they’ll be paying for out of their own pocket:

Among the ambitious upgrades: a relocation and expansion of the Bruins’ Proshop; an overhaul of the concourses on levels four and seven; and renovations of the Garden’s concessions and the Legends Club, the arena’s largest private hospitality space, which houses the Celtics’ Courtside club and is open to eligible Bruins and Celtics season-ticket holders.

“It’s our goal to really set the industry standard, the high-water mark, for fan experience,” Charlie Jacobs, principal for Delaware North Companies and the Bruins, told the Globe.

You can credit the difference between this and the situation with the Miami Heat et al. to the fact that Massachusetts isn’t as generous with sports subsidies as Florida, to the fact that it’d be laughable for the Bruins to threaten to leave Boston for another market, or just to Charlie Jacobs being a nice guy, if you want. But anyway, sports venue renovations can be done on the team’s dime. If you really needed any more evidence than this.

Panthers print out $80m subsidy demand on nicer paper, resubmit it to Broward County

The owners of the Florida Panthers responded to criticism of their demand for $80 million in public subsidies in exchange for pretty much damn near nothing by issuing a revised subsidy proposal at the end of last week, which looks like:

The new request looks largely the same.

Thanks, South Florida Sun Sentinel, for saving us having to read the rest of the article. There would be a small change in how the profit threshold would be calculated before the Panthers would have to share profits with Broward County, it looks like, but given that it’s pretty much inconceivable that the Panthers would ever hit that threshold anyway, this isn’t likely to be that significant a change.

New Panthers CEO Rory Babich, meanwhile, had this to add:

“We resubmitted our proposal to eliminate or modify certain previous requests to enable the discussions to focus more specifically on the economic terms of the arrangements,” he said in an email. ” …  We look forward to continuing to engage in an active and constructive dialogue with the county staff regarding the terms of our agreements with the County. We remain confident that a sensible, long-term solution can be found to help sustain the long-term viability of the Broward County-owned BB&T Center.”

Man, I can see how Babich got that job. I knew I should have gone for an advanced degree in gobbledygook.