New St. Pete councilmember could be deciding vote for Rays lease buyout

You can tell how blasé I’ve become about this whole electoral-process-making-any-difference thing when I didn’t even bother to check until late yesterday who’d won what in stadium-related races. (I knew about Ohio rejecting pot monopolies and Kentucky electing a crazy guy governor, because Facebook, duh.) So, a quick recap:

  • Glendale, Arizona voters recalled city councilmember Gary Sherwood, who’d been one of the prime supporters of the Arizona Coyotes and their sweetheart lease deal. Not that it matters all that much — Glendale’s council was already solidly against the Coyotes lease, and Sherwood has already said he’s planning to run for his old seat again next August — but Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc should probably give up on waiting for Glendale to come to what he thinks its senses should be.
  • The one open seat on the St. Peterburg city council has gone to Lisa Wheeler-Brown, who could give Mayor Rick Kriseman a pivotal fifth vote (out of eight) in support of his plan to let the Tampa Bay Rays buy their way out of their lease clause preventing them from moving elsewhere in the metropolitan area. That means that come January, Kriseman could presumably reintroduce his plan, which the old council rejected but Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is okay with, and have it approved, which could lead to the Rays stadium chase moving into the “see which local governments we can shake loose how much money from” phase.

And that may be it, so far as I can tell. It was a slow election day — I hear there’s something bigger at stake next year, so I’ll to try to pay more attention by then.


Coyotes owner to Glendale: Plenty of cities would be glad to have us, don’t make me show you

The Arizona Coyotes‘ search for a new home in the Phoenix arena now that Glendale has said they’d have to bid for the right to operate their old arena there is “moving pretty quickly,” with multiple possible locations, according to team CEO Anthony LeBlanc:

“I don’t think anything has progressed to a point where it would be prudent to state what options look like but things are moving pretty quickly; in particular with a couple of these options,” he said. “The city of Phoenix has been the most vocal. They have an NBA franchise (Suns) that they are very tied to and they want to ensure there’s no hiccup in regards to that.

“We’re working as closely as we can to understand what all the options look like and there are other communities and stakeholders we are talking to.”

In addition to Phoenix, the Coyotes have had at least “some level of discussion” around sites in Tempe and Glendale, according to Arizona Sports. There’s been no indication of how an arena in any of these places would be paid for, let alone whether any of these cities would offer the kind of sweetheart arena operating lease that the team has become accustomed to in Glendale — for all we know, “some level of discussion” just means these cities joined the team’s “So You Want To Have A Hockey Franchise?” Facebook group.

LeBlanc himself, in fact, immediately took the opportunity to use these phantom arenas as a way to try to pressure Glendale into reconsider its opposition to giving him a no-bid contract to run their arena:

“Our hope is that somebody will take a look at what Broward County has done and ask a simple question: ‘Has there been an economic analysis of what happens if the Coyotes leave?’ Unfortunately, if you’re going to ignore the revenue impact of the team being here and you’re only going to look at what your expectation is on the expense side, you’re not going to make the right decisions.”

There’s a recall election today of the Glendale city councilmember who helped push through the Coyotes’ lease deal in the first place by conducting secret lobbying of his council colleagues, which may help explain some of LeBlanc’s timing here.

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?




Glendale opens Coyotes arena management deal up for bids, sky doesn’t fall (yet, anyway)

Back in July when the city of Glendale renegotiated its lease with the Arizona Coyotes to make it slightly less onerous and a whole lot shorter, I wrote:

The new lease only lasts until summer of 2017, after which everyone has to figure this out all over again.

Turns out, though, Glendale officials don’t intend to wait that long, and they don’t necessarily plan on doing their figuring out with the Coyotes management:

The Glendale City Council on Tuesday voted to hire Beacon Sports Capital Partners LLC as a consultant to seek bidders to manage the arena, with the manager taking over as early as July 2016…

Vice Mayor Ian Hugh said Wednesday the city hopes to select an arena manager as early as January and IceArizona will be considered if it responds to the city’s request for proposals.

In case you’re wondering why it’s a big deal who manages the arena, it’s a humongous one, because under prior leases the city has been paying IceArizona, the Coyotes owners, $7-8 million a year to run the place. IceArizona swears this is totally reasonable; other observers have disagreed, and now, if nothing else, we’ll get to see if Glendale can do better by actually bringing in other bidders instead of just going to the hockey team and asking, “How much do you charge?”

Of course, any other arena manager would also have to negotiate a rental fee or revenue share with the Coyotes, who will be one of their competing bidders, so this has the potential to be a total mess. But it’s the kind of mess that might end up with the city not left totally holding the bag, or at least not as much of a bag as it might otherwise have to, so I approve! Especially since it promises to be great fun to watch from a distance.

Glendale gets Coyotes to agree to two-year lease that’s slightly less sucktastic than old one

That was quick: Just six weeks after the city of Glendale acted to terminate the Arizona Coyotes‘ sweetheart lease, the two sides arrived at a revised deal yesterday. Okay, it’s only a deal for a new lease for the next two years, but given that just last month everybody was all lawsuits and vitriol, that’s still impressive.

The old deal, to recap, involved Glendale paying the Coyotes owners $15 million a year for each of the next 15 years, for the privilege of having the NHL team bless the city’s publicly built arena with its presence. (And operate the arena, something that the Coyotes owners insist is worth a ton of money, though others disagree.) In exchange, the city was getting back about $6.7 million a year in ticket taxes, parking revenues, rent, and other sundries, leaving it about $8 million a year in the hole. And while the city couldn’t back out (until it found a loophole that let it do so), the team could break the lease and leave (or renegotiate) at any point.

The new deal breaks down like this:

  • Instead of $15 million a year, Glendale pays the Coyotes owners only $6.5 million a year.
  • The Coyotes owners keep all ticket surcharges and parking fees, which the Globe and Mail says will be worth about $6 million a year, though I had it at more like $5.4 million.
  • The new lease only lasts until summer of 2017, after which everyone has to figure this out all over again.

If you can do simple math — which isn’t me this morning after staying out late at this, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway — Glendale just saved about $5 million over the next two years, plus got out of another 11 years of commitment to those $15 million a year payments. So that’s something!

On the other hand, this mostly just kicks the can down the road to 2017, which has some advantages for Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc: The NHL expansion situation should be resolved by then, and there should be more clarity on whether a new arena is likely in Seattle, allowing LeBlanc to level a more fleshed-out move threat then if he wants. Also, Glendale has mayoral and council elections in 2016, so LeBlanc can always hold out hope of getting more amenable negotiating partners into City Hall by then.

On the other other hand, LeBlanc could have used his out clause to do that anyway, so at least current mayor Jerry Weiers and the current council (which is supposed to vote on the new plan this morning) got something out of breaking the lease. And the Coyotes will continue to have the league’s most entertaining ownership and arena saga for the foreseeable future, which is good, because for sure nobody wants to watch them do whatever they claim is playing hockey.

Vegas, Quebec now frontrunners for NHL expansion teams, because nobody else bothered to bid

Official bids to own an NHL expansion franchise (assuming the NHL actually expands) were due yesterday, and of the several motley candidates, only two ended up submitting an actual bid, along with a $2 million non-refundable deposit: The Bill Foley/Maloof brothers group in Las Vegas, and Canadian telecom company Quebecor in Quebec City.

If the neo-Quebec Nordiques and Las Vegas Black Knights (that’s seriously what they’re considering calling the team — one can only hope their team motto will be “Tis but a flesh wound!“) happen, it will be because the NHL thinks it can get $500 million apiece in expansion fees, which would be worth the roughly $20 million a year in TV revenues the other teams would have to give up to each of the new franchises. Neither city would be a guaranteed success — Quebec probably has a better shot, if only because people actually watch hockey there, but they’d both be among the NHL’s smallest markets — but then, if there were an obvious expansion market, it would already have a team by now.

There was one bigger market considering a bid, or actually two bids: Seattle, where both Chris Hansen and Ray Bartoszek were reportedly interested in teams for their prospective arenas in downtown Seattle and suburban Tukwila. Neither ended up bidding, though, which would leave Seattle looking at being the home for a relocated team at some point, assuming either Hansen or Bartoszek is really that interested in the NHL.

And that, ultimately, is what the NHL would be giving up here, even more than a sliver of TV revenues: leverage. Right now, cities undergoing arena battles face a slew of marginally believable bogeymen where their team could be said to be relocating to if they don’t agree to demands. If Vegas and Quebec get new teams, the league would pretty much be down to Seattle as a threat, and while one city will certainly suffice for this (look at what the NFL has done with L.A.), it’s less than ideal.

All of which is to say that Glendale officials should probably feel comfortable taking a hard line with the Arizona Coyotes owners in their lease battle. There’s reportedly been some progress in those talks, but if the worst-case scenario ends up being that the Coyotes might move back to a new arena in Phoenix, leaving that city stuck with how to keep afloat a money-losing franchise with subsidies, that’s the kind of chance that Glendale should feel comfortable taking.

UPDATE: Deadspin thinks that this is going to hurt the NHL’s leverage in getting the highest price for expansion teams, since now they can’t get a bidding war going. I’m less sure — the league can still refuse to assign any new teams at all if it doesn’t get what it wants — but this certainly doesn’t help the NHL’s racket, let’s put it that way.

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.

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.