Phoenix Coyotes’ fate could be decided Tuesday night
The Glendale City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on an arena lease agreement with prospective owners of the Phoenix Coyotes, who want to buy the NHL team and keep it in Jobing.com Arena. If the council votes against the agreement, “Plan B” could be moving the team to Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The wait is nearly over.
The future of the Phoenix Coyotes will likely be decided Tuesday night by the Glendale City Council, which will vote on an arena lease agreement with the prospective owners of the professional hockey team.
If the seven-member council approves the 15-year, $225 million deal for Jobing.com Arena, then the NHL will sell the team to investors Renaissance Sports & Entertainment and the Coyotes will remain in Arizona.
But if the Council votes against the lease — leaving the two sides still at odds over a proposed amendment — then the Coyotes could be headed to Seattle.
At least, that’s what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has threatened.
“I find it difficult to conceive of why, if the council turns this down, we would want to keep the team in Glendale any longer,” Bettman said Thursday at the NHL Board of Governors meetings in New York. “And so we will then, if they turn it down, have to deal with the possibilities and the options that will be available to us, and they are numerous.”
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn spoke to Bettman about Seattle serving as “Plan B” for the NHL.
McGinn and members of the Seattle City Council also met with New York City investors Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, who talked about plans to buy the Coyotes, relocate to Seattle and play at KeyArena for two to four years.
“My walk-away conclusion was, ‘Gosh, that was interesting, and it would be great if we got an NHL team, and we’ll see how that goes,’ ” Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess said. “There was nothing said during the meeting that indicated this was a done deal or this was going to happen for sure this fall.
“They were very cautious about how they described things. It was more their expressions of hope as opposed to definitive statements that this is going to happen.”
Still, a Seattle City Center staffer acknowledged KeyArena is holding dates for NHL games in case the Coyotes move to Seattle in the fall.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who has served as the league’s spokesman regarding the Coyotes, also said the NHL is waiting to finalize its 2013-14 schedule until after the Coyotes situation is resolved.
When asked at the Board of Governors meetings specifically about KeyArena, Daly said it would be a suitable temporary venue.
Other alternatives include relocating to Quebec City or folding the franchise.
Option A, however, is clearly Arizona.
Since the NHL acquired the team out of bankruptcy in 2009, it has been trying to sell it to investors willing to keep the team in Glendale, where it has resided the past 10 years.
The city has also foundered financially. Glendale paid the NHL $25 million each of the past two years to keep the Coyotes at the city-owned facility.
After weeks of negotiations, the sides reached an apparent deal Friday.
Glendale would pay the Coyotes $15 million a year for 15 years, while the team would reimburse the city $6.72 million, projected to come largely from ticket surcharges, parking and arena naming-rights fees.
The deal allows owners to terminate the contract after five years or if their cumulative losses reach $50 million.
After the proposed agreement was posted on the city’s website Friday, Glendale added revisions that include a similar out clause for the city.
RSE spokesman David Leibowitz told USA Today that Glendale’s counterproposal is a “non-starter.”
“What we want the city to do is remove the out clause,” he said. “That’s a deal-breaker. We want the city to return to the deal framework that was negotiated previously.”
Considering the sides are still at odds on the eve of the Council vote suggests an eleventh-hour compromise is unlikely, said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College.
“They’ve had years to figure this thing out, and it hasn’t worked,” he said. “It’s a no-win proposition for Glendale. If the Coyotes stay, the city and the team will continue to lose money.
“If they leave, there’s a great deal of uncertainty for the city and that arena.”