Glendale picks arena manager, still doesn’t know cost, because some things man was not meant to know

The city of Glendale finally announced its decision in the bidding to run the Gila River Arena now that the Arizona Coyotes management is out, and the winner is … AEG! Let’s have a big hand for the largest arena management behemoth in the nation!

And the question that everyone wants to know the answer to: How much will the city have to pay AEG to keep the lights on at the arena?

Glendale did not release AEG’s proposal, nor the proposals of the other bidders: Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, which formerly was known as Global Spectrum and is based in Philadelphia; and SMG, which is based in West Conshohocken, Pa., in suburban Philadelphia…

[Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps] expects the city will have to subsidize the arena in the short term, but anticipates the amount will be less than the $6.5 million the city is paying to keep the venue operational.

So, wait, AEG didn’t actually include a price tag in its proposal? Or it’s some kind of floating number dependent on revenues or something? What the hell, Kevin Phelps, we’ve been following this fershlugginer lease battle for years now, we want some answers!

The city and AEG are expected to have something to submit to the city council within 60 days, so at least we should know a bit more by … eesh, April, seriously? The two parties would then need to hash out a lease deal with the Coyotes, at least for the short term, since any new arena the team has planned wouldn’t be ready for a while. (Yes, they could move back in with the Phoenix Suns, but that didn’t work so well the first time.) At this rate, Arizona really could become unlivable due to the heat before the Coyotes situation gets worked out.

Coyotes plan to announce something about arena plans someday

Here’s Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc talking about his plans for a new arena in Phoenix or Tempe or someplace that’s not Glendale, because screw those guys for not wanting to pay him to play there:

“I’m very positive that we will have something out in the community if not in the next month or two but certainly by the end of the regular season,” LeBlanc said. “We need to partner with a community or institution that wants to be a partner and that’s the first and foremost thing. The good news is that all of the discussions we have had have been pretty open as have other organizations — be it the city of Phoenix or Tempe or Arizona State. Everybody has been pretty open that we have had discussions with and they have all been positive.”

So the owner of the Coyotes is hopeful that by April he’ll have “something out in the community” about partnering with somebody on building something somewhere, and everyone he’s talked to is “positive.” Got it. My only concern is that the English language may need a new verb tense for this — may I suggest the hyper-subjunctive?


Three biggest arena management firms in nation bid for Glendale contract

We now have the names of the arena management companies bidding to run Glendale’s arena in place of the Arizona Coyotes, and man, are they names: AEG, SMG, and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor (formerly Global Spectrum), which only happen to be the three biggest arena managers in the country. As an added twist, Spectra is currently subcontracted to run the Glendale arena by the Coyotes, though here they’d be writing up their own contract.

This blows a hole in theories that nobody would be interested in managing the Gila River Arena because it’s such a money pit, though it doesn’t yet answer the more interesting question: What do each of these companies want in order to run the place? If it’s less than $7 million a year, then Glendale will be saving money by canceling the old Coyotes lease; if not, then not. Stay tuned.

Glendale gets three bids to run arena, no word yet how they compare to Coyotes’ old lease in awfulness

The deadline for applications to run Glendale’s arena was Friday, and lo and behold, the city got three bids! We don’t know who the bidders are yet or what their bids are because city officials aren’t talking — finalists will be announced January 4, with a winner to be selected on February 8.

If you’re coming late to this story and wondering why on earth you should care about Glendale’s arena management contract, this was the huge sticking point in the Arizona Coyotes‘ old now-canceled lease: Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc insisted it was perfectly reasonably for Glendale to pay him $7-8 million a year to run the place, while Glendale officials figured they could get a better deal by shopping around. We do know that none of the new bidders are LeBlanc, so if nothing else, we’ll now see what the market rate is for operating a money-losing arena in an outlying suburb.

It’ll also be interesting to see if the new arena management plans include any contingencies for whether or not the Coyotes are there, since LeBlanc has already started exploring every option under the sun to get the hell out of there rather than have to be renters. It’s rare that we see owners’ claims about what’s a reasonable deal put to any kind of a market test — even one with only three bidders — so I can’t be the only one eagerly waiting to see what is revealed on January 4.

Coyotes may move to 50-year-old arena to get away from Glendale

The owners of the Arizona Coyotes may still be working out exactly what they want to do for a new arena if they leave Glendale when their lease expires in 2017, but they do seem to have at least one stopgap plan: Team officials have met with the operators of the state-run Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix about playing there on a temporary basis.

This makes total sense, since a new arena would take several years to plan and build, and anyway, meeting with the arena operators isn’t the same as actually coming to an agreement with them. Still, this would be pretty hilarious if it came to pass, as the Memorial Coliseum is the venue that the Suns left in 1992 because they deemed it too old, moving to a new arena that the Coyotes then left themselves for a still newer arena in Glendale. Apparently there’s obsolete and then there’s obsolete, at least when the alternative is the alternative is having to actually bid for the operating rights to the modern arena you had built for you at public expense.

Speaking of which, bids on operating rights for the Glendale arena are due today. [EDIT: Now pushed back to next Friday.] It’ll be very interesting, to say the least, to see what kinds of offers they get, and how much better they are than the $7-8 million a year that the city was paying the Coyotes to run the place.

Coyotes owner says he’s totally getting a new arena in Phoenix, for sure

And speaking of spin:

The Arizona Coyotes are actively researching plans for a new home in downtown Phoenix or in the city’s East Valley, Coyotes co-owner and president Anthony Leblanc said Monday at the Board of Governors meeting.

The Coyotes’ lease with Gila River Arena in Glendale expires after the 2016-17 season.

“We’re in very progressed talks with the city of Phoenix and as well we forged a tight alliance with Arizona State University and we’re having discussions with them about the potential for a facility,” Leblanc said. “We’re exploring those pretty aggressively.”

That’s from an article that exclusively quotes Leblanc. So what do less-interested sources say about the possibility of a new Phoenix home for the Coyotes (and Suns and Mercury, presumably)? Hello, anyone?

It’s possible, of course, that Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is ready to offer the Coyotes the moon in order to get the money-hemorrhaging NHL franchise to move back to the city it left 12 years ago, by replacing the arena that it built in 1992. But as economist Victor Matheson has memorably noted, “‘Negotiations’ could mean ‘I talked to a guy once at a party.'” Once somebody flashes some actual money, then we’ll have something to talk about.

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.