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.

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.

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?

Glendale will lose only $19m on Coyotes arena this year instead of $20m, brags Coyotes owner

Hey, it’s actual good news, kind of, from Glendale! Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc says that he expects the parking fees, ticket surcharges, and other revenues his team shares with the city to rise this year from “between six and seven” million dollars to “between seven and eight” million. That’s almost as much as the $9 million a year he promised when signing his new lease deal in 2013! “I mean we’re trending this thing completely towards [our goal],” LeBlanc told Sportsnet.ca.

Of course, the other way of looking at this is that Coyotes payments to Glendale are still falling more than a million dollars a year short. Or that, when you add in the $15 million a year Glendale is paying the Coyotes to run the place, in exchange for less than $8 million a year in revenue shares, that’s a loss of more than $7 million a year — actually an $8.7 million loss this year, according to projections by the city last week, though that may not take into account LeBlanc’s latest rosy projections. Plus add in that the Coyotes owners aren’t paying any rent to help pay off the $12 million a year in annual debt payments on the arena’s initial construction costs and, yeah, this still isn’t working out so well. But it’s maybe working out $1 million less horribly than everyone thought it was last week! Glass half full! Glass half full!

Glendale losing even more money on Coyotes deal than thought humanly possible

The Arizona Republic has created a big-ass chart showing the finances of the Arizona Coyotes arena for 2014-15, and it shows that … actually, it’s not clear what it shows, since there’s no explanation of what the numbers actually correspond to. (Does “total expenditures” just include operating costs? What the heck is “deficiency”?) So let’s just go to the quotes:

Glendale’s losses for hockey and concerts at Gila River Arena through April hit $6.3 million, up nearly 14 percent from a year earlier.

Okay, that’s not good.

The Coyotes can end the arena deal after the 2017-18 season if its combined losses exceed $50 million over the first five years of the arena agreement. Its first-year losses were $34.8 million.

That’s also not good. Though looked at another way, since the Coyotes leaving town would absolve Glendale of the $15 million a year in operating subsidies it’s giving to the team to play there, plus at least some of those $6.3 million in annual losses (assuming either the arena was shuttered, or the hockey dates could be used for concerts that someone would actually want to go see, unlike the Coyotes), the team owners opting out of their lease could be the best for all concerned at this point. Unless they used it to try to demand an even sweeter lease, which would be almost unthinkable, if entirely in character.

Glendale proposes $46m garage for Coyotes, Cardinals, because they already got them everything else

Believe it or not, the Arizona Coyotes have found yet another way to get more subsidies out of Glendale: The city council will vote in June on whether to approve a $46 million parking garage to serve the Coyotes, the Arizona Cardinals, and the local mall. The garage bonds would be paid off by Glendale’s 235,000 residents, which on the face of it is only $20 $200 [EDIT: sorry, early-morning math] apiece (plus interest), but coming on top of a $220 million arena and $275 million in operating subsidies for the NHL team, it’s adding insult to injury, if nothing else.

To be precise, the parking garage would actually still be part of the original terrible deals with the Cardinals and Coyotes, which requires the city to provide 6,000 parking spaces for the football stadium and 5,500 for the hockey arena. (The new parking deck would hold 4,000.) And it would save the city a few hundred thousand dollars a year that it’s been spending on renting spaces to meet that obligation.

Still, it’s another expense that hasn’t previously been accounted for in the subsidy totals, so update your scorecards appropriately. And shake your head sadly for the poor citizens of Glendale, who are paying a record price for the presence of a hockey team that hardly any of them are actually interested in going to watch.