From the second I posted my last blog on the topic of the most recent Glendale Monthly Arena Management Report I have been inundated with Facebook private messages, emails and Twitter DMs asking so many questions I’ve decided to answer many of them here and now.

I’ve been asked how the Ice AZ deal is different than the Jamison deal I supported. Why was that more beneficial and why did I support it? I received a flurry of offended IceArizona supporters demanding I announce why Jamison’s deal failed, why I “pick,” “target,” “harass” the new owners. I am not at liberty to discuss why the Jamison deal did not succeed due to confidentiality issues. I can, however, compare the two deals – Jamison’s and IceArizona’s. My only agenda throughout the entire process was to get what would be, in my opinion, the best deal possible for Glendale within the context of the financial environment as it existed at that time. Each deal had its strengths and weaknesses vis a vis Glendale.

 Then there’s the “interested-in-Glendale” crowd who want to know why I continually berate the new Council and is it because I’m running again in the future? Again, I categorically state that I will not run for any office, now or in the future. I have seen some councilmembers who remained well into their 80’s. One could see the diminishment in their faculties and abilities. It is a disservice to the constituents they represent. Instead I appreciate the gift I have been given to opine on Glendale issues and events using the benefit of my 16 years of service to the city. I am enjoying my retirement immensely and writing about Glendale is just plain fun.

Some asked, did I think individual councilmembers or the mayor personally benefit from deals? Then there are the few accusations of “I bet you benefitted just like these lousy politicians” implying that somehow I would financially benefit from a successful Jamison deal. Jamison never, ever made any offer of compensation of any sort and if he had it would have resulted in personal insult at the thought and would have insured my “no” vote on his bid.

Now…for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say…Let’s begin with the unsuccessful Jamison bid.  In page citations references with regard to the Jamison bid are the City Council Voting Meeting Presentation of November 27, 2012 or the Substantial Final Draft of the Arena Management Agreement dated October, 2012.

  • It was a long-term deal of 20 years with a 5 year option to renew with no opt out clause by either party (Council meeting of November, 2012).
  • Base rent was in years 1 to 5, $500,000; years 6 to 12, $650,000; and years 13 to 22, $800,000; (Final Substantial Draft of Arena Management Agreement, page 24, Section 6. Leasehold Interest. 6.6. Base Rent).
  • Stipulation if full 40+ games were not played it would be arena manager’s responsibility to book other events to compensate for lost games (Arena Management Agreement, page 29, Section 8. Arena Management. 8.1.0).
  • Minimum of 40 games per year with additional 30 events per year. Management fee reduced by $25,000 for each non-hockey event below 30 minimum. Reduction of $60,000 per game below 40 minimum (Council meeting of November, 2012).
  • Parking Rights belonged to team owner/manager (page 30, Section 8.2).
  • Stipulation of 15% of the gross from naming rights would go to the city (page 35, Section 8.5).
  • City surcharge on qualified tickets was years 1 to 5, $2.75; and years 6 to 22, $3.00 (page 51, Section 9. Charges and Fees. 9.1. City Surcharge).
  • Arena Management Fee: In year 1, $11M; year 2, $14M; years 3 to 4, $15M; year 5, $16M; years 6 to 10, $18M; and year 11, $17M; years 12 to 15, $16m; year 16, $14M; and years 17 to 20, $13M (Council meeting of November, 2012).
  • Stipulation of 5 year option to purchase the arena (page 89, Section 23. Arena Purchase Option).
  • City offered a bonus incentive of $500,000 for every additional 20 events over 30 minimum required (Council meeting of November, 2012).

Was it a perfect deal? Of course not but I supported it for several reasons. Mr. Jamison continually demonstrated his willingness to compromise during the negotiations with the city. Every nuance of the Jamison deal was highly publicized.  There was no backroom negotiating amongst councilmembers.

A restructured arena management fee was crafted and the first year fee dropped from $17M to $11M. Penalties and bonuses were added — something not seen in any previous deals. The Five Year Scenario presented at the November, 2012 council meeting showed an ending City Fund Balance in 2017 of $63.2M if the team stayed and an ending Fund Balance in 2017 of $63.4M if the team left. The difference was negligible and seemed reasonable as both scenarios required General Fund expense reductions.

It was a deal that offered the city arena stability over 20 years and most importantly, there was an option to buy the arena in the first five years making the balance of the deal a moot point while relieving the city of further financial obligations. The “buy” option in the first five years would have removed the financial debt burden the city was facing at that time. Jamison provided a long term contractual commitment insuring an anchor tenant in the arena for 20 years. His deal was based upon having raised the necessary team purchase equity – no loans were involved.

Why didn’t it happen? Many of the reasons are not public and I am not at liberty to speak of them but I do know that at the eleventh hour the NHL demanded greater team purchase equity. Jamison was raising cash to purchase the team rather than relying upon loans. It was simply impossible to raise in two months the additional equity that the NHL suddenly required before the city’s imposed deadline of January 31, 2013. The originally requested equity amount had been raised but the new, last minute NHL demand was a deal killer. Why the sudden and unexpected requirement of more purchase equity? One would have to ask the NHL officers and they are not talking.

Now, let’s look at the IceArizona deal. Since it was the successful bid and of recent vintage, many of the deal points are already familiar to you. The IceArizona citations used are from the Professional Management Services and Arena Lease Agreement of June 28, 2013. The council approved the agreement on August 5, 2013.

  • The agreement is subject to an early termination right after 5 years (page 3, Arena Lease Agreement, Section 1. Statement of Intent. 1.1.1.)
  • Revenues to be received by the city include surcharge of $3 on qualified hockey tickets; a $5 surcharge on non-hockey qualified tickets; and a supplemental surcharge of $1.50 on every qualified ticket; parking revenues of $10 per vehicle for hockey events and $11.33 per vehicle for non-hockey events less $20,000.00 per event to the team owner; 20% of the sale of naming rights (page 4. Section 1. Statement of Intent. 1.1.5. a through j).
  • Arena Management Withdrawal grants the right of agreement default if there is an arena manager dissolution, bankruptcy or insolvency (page 7, Definitions. 1.2. a through e).
  • Definition of qualified ticket with a distribution limit of 1,000 per event (page 16. Section 1.)
  • Annual rent is in years 1 to 5, $500,000; years 6 to 12, $650,000; years 13 to 15, $800,000 (page 25. Section 6. Leasehold Interest. 6.6.1 to 6.6.3)
  • Penalty of $150,000 per hockey game less than the 40 games per year. There is no penalty for non-hockey events or any minimum of non-hockey events required (page 31. Section 8. Arena Management. 8.3. Event Requirements. 8.3.1. b and c).
  • Qualified hockey ticket surcharge based on attendance of less than 15,000 is $3 per ticket; 15,000 to 15,999 is $3.25 per ticket; 16,000 to 17,000 is $3.50 per ticket; more than 17,000 is $3.75. All non hockey events will be $3 per ticket regardless of attendance figures (page 49. Section 9. Charges and Fees. 9.1.2 a and b).
  • Supplemental ticket surcharge of $1.50 per qualified ticket imposed (page 49. Section 9. Charges and Fees. 9.1.3).
  • City receives 20% of arena naming rights (page 35. Section 8. Arena Management. 8.6.4.b.ii).

Is this a perfect deal? Of course not but it is one that is far more difficult to support. I cannot speak as to whether there was a spirit of compromise as I was not directly involved with the prospective team purchasers. There appeared to be “back room” negotiating amongst councilmembers in the search for the elusive 4th vote.  

Obviously there was no compromise on the annual management fee of $15M. There couldn’t be compromise because the team purchase relied heavily on loans from the Fortress Group and the NHL rather than on raising a large amount of purchase equity. I find it ironic that the NHL killed the Jamison deal by requesting even greater purchase equity than he has already acquired and now it is stuck with granting an $80M loan to the new owners. The $15M that the city pays for arena management is passed through by the team owners as interest payments on their loans. They quite simply must have that $15M for interest payments.

On the face of it the IceArizona deal speaks to a long-term commitment but that is not necessarily the case. There is an opt out clause after 5 years and that is extremely disturbing. It has been highly publicized that the opt-out trigger is losses aggregately of $50 million. Anyone who is under the assumption that the team owners will not suffer loss is dreaming. Business 101 classes teach that any new business venture can routinely expect losses in the first 2 to 3 years. The question becomes how much will the owners lose and how quickly will it reach the target of $50 million? Even though the city has and will exercise its right to audit at the end of every fiscal year that information will not be publicly available. P&L statements are usually proprietary. The public will not know until if and when the team owners choose to exercise their opt-out provision.

 The city could go through another exercise of crafting an agreement with another new owner but more likely, the team would be sold or relocated. There is also an Arena Manager Withdrawal clause that provides a default opportunity for sale or relocation.

Keep in mind in BOTH deals there are very few new revenue streams to the city. The city had been, in years previous, collecting all sales tax generated within and outside the arena. That is not new money. It also had been collecting a ticket surcharge on all events. That is not new money. These revenues were already going into the city’s General Fund and specifically used to pay the arena construction debt. In the IceArizona deal the revenues flow to the General Fund as well but there is no specific dedication of those revenues to fulfill the city’s arena debt obligations and may be used for any purpose.

In the Jamison deal the only new money was 15% of the revenue from naming rights. In the IceArizona deal the only new money is 20% of naming rights, the supplemental ticket surcharge and parking revenue. None of these revenues are predicted by the city’s Executive Finance Director as being substantial enough to recompense the annual $15M management fee.

In my judgment the better deal was the Jamison deal. He offered a long-term commitment to stay in Glendale with no opt out clause and an opportunity to buy the arena in the first five years. It would have relieved the city of the financial obligations of the arena. Not so with the IceArizona contract. While their advertising states, “Here to stay” there is always that pesky 5 year opt out clause lurking.

Because of the Jamison group’s purchase equity position there was flexibility in pegging the annual management fee to accommodate the city’s needs at the time. Make no mistake. Each deal placed a tremendous annual financial burden upon the city. Coupled with the Jamison deal staff recommended city expense reductions and instituted other strategies such as restructuring city debt that would have offset that burden.  With the IceArizona deal there is too much reliance upon promised revenues that may or may not be realized.  With so little owner equity, their reliance upon large loans and the 5 year opt out clause I wouldn’t take a bet about their future. Would you?

 I am sure that in expressing my POV on the two deals I will raise a great deal of protestation along with, “your facts are flawed” or “you have no faith” or “once again you have delivered an IceArizona hate piece.” There is no doubt that the subject is divisive and highly polarizing. Please remember that my conclusions are based upon publicly available information. It is my best attempt to share my reasoning regarding the many questions received. My initial vote to accept the Jamison deal while still on council resulted in leaving the door open for consideration of other bids resulting in IceArizona’s success. I have never been anti-Coyotes. I have always been pro-Glendale. My prism has always been the best interests of Glendale. It is fair to question whether accepting the IceArizona deal the best choice for Glendale. You decide.

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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