It has been 17 years and 214 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
On July 24, 2015 at a special voting meeting the Glendale City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 2949 and the First Amendment to AMULA Final. With these actions the city and Ice Arizona agreed to dismiss all lawsuits and also settled the issue of the million dollars sitting around in a special escrow account as a result of the 2009 bankruptcy filing.
Before the Kumbaya vote Anthony LeBlanc, spokesperson for the ownership group said, “We’re not going to renegotiate…never, never, never.” Oops. The afternoon of the fateful vote in a radio interview with Roc & Manuch, LeBlanc was heard to say, “We haven’t been open with them (the city).”And, “We haven’t been good communicators.” And, “They’ve done well for the taxpayers. They’ve got a win.” When asked if Ice Arizona would consider buying the city’s arena, LeBlanc said about arena ownership, “That’s not the business we’re in.” Should we believe him in light of his long history of “erroneous” statements?
Councilmember Gary Sherwood, IceArizona’s staunch advocate, in an earlier, same day radio interview (July 24, 2015) with Roc & Manuch, said that he had publicly staked out a position that “he was not going to vote.” We can assume his action was to be a public display of disapproval for council’s treatment of his good friends, the IceArizona owners. In his traditional flip-flop fashion, he reversed himself with a little help from his friends. He revealed that the night before the vote “he had discussions with ownership” (presumably Anthony LeBlanc). His remark is interesting in and of itself for the only meeting council had prior to the vote was an executive session on July 20, 2015. Did he share the conversations and results of that executive session with his good friend LeBlanc? Sherwood went on to say that “ownership wanted a 7-0 vote in support of the new deal.” Always willing to oblige his friends, Sherwood did a 180 and not only voted but voted in favor and made sure his pal, Councilmember Sammy Chavira did as well.
There has been considerable opining in the news media and on social media as to whether this is a good deal…for anybody. I contend that it is a good deal for Glendale if for no other reason than a $197 million dollar liability is gone…poof! That action should warm the hearts of the bond rating agencies. That figure represents the annual lease payments for the balance of the original lease management agreement.
The city gained in reducing the management fee to $6.5M from the original $15M annually. The actual language is: “10.1. Management Fee. Commencing on the Amendment Effective Date, and during the remainder of the Term, in consideration of the Arena Manager’s agreement to perform the management and other services set forth in this Agreement to pay all operating and maintenance costs associated with the Arena Facility (other than capital costs as provided herein), provided there is no breach by the Team Owner of the obligations under the Non-Relocation Agreement or a material breach by the Arena Manager of its obligations under this Agreement, the City shall pay to the Arena Manager, by wire transfer of immediately available funds to an account specified by the Arena Manager, the annual Management Fee in the amount of Six Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($6, 500,000), paid in quarterly (on a three calendar month basis) installments in arrears on or before each October 1st, January 1st, April 1st and July 1st during the Term.” The city was losing an estimated $8+M a year under the original lease agreement even with the shared revenue it received. This management fee is budgeted within the city budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16.
The city also won two important concessions. It now has its own “out” clause with this agreement which ends in two years, in 2017 with recognition that “19. Termination Date means June 30, 2017.” It now has the freedom to choose its own arena manager in a year’s time as stated, “46. Change of Manager. Notwithstanding what may otherwise be proved in this Agreement or in this Amendment, the City shall have the option to replace the Arena Manager at any time after June 30, 2016…” Everyone hopes the city will craft an RFP immediately and put it out on the street in a time frame appropriate to exercising that option.
The city achieved what can be considered as payback. IceArizona will no longer use former City Attorney Craig Tindall or former Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni in any capacity including as a consultant. It is in #4 of the Settlement Agreement which states, “No Other City Employee Involved with Arena Agreement. The Parties represent and warrant that, as of the Effective Date, to the best of their individual and collective knowledge, information, and belief, no other former employees of the City, other than Craig Tindall or Julie Frisoni, have become consultants to or employees of IceArizona, in any capacity, since July 8, 2013. Ice Arizona represents and warrants that neither Tindall nor Frisoni has, in any way and to any extent, no matter how substantial or insubstantial, been involved in initiating, negotiating, creating, drafting, or securing the First Amendment. In reliance on these representations and warranties and those in Section 6, the City, City Council, City Manager, and City Attorney, collectively and individually, represent and warrant that they will never in the future seek to cancel or void the Arena Agreement of the First Amendment based o the involvement of Tindall or Frisoni, no matter how substantial or insubstantial, in initiating, negotiating, crating, drafting, or securing the Arena Agreement or the First Amendment on behalf of Glendale, so long as Tindall and Frisoni are not employed or retained as a consultant by IceArizona or any of its affiliates, divisions, parent entities, or subsidiaries.” The language is quite specific. That is just plain Karma for Tindall and Frisoni.
Did IceArizona get anything out of the deal? It stopped a lawsuit in which ultimately the city would have prevailed. Note that the new deal contains a lot of verbiage enjoining the city from suing IceArizona, ever, for any reason, regarding Tindall and Frisoni. The major gain was that it bought IceArizona time…time to decide its future. If the owners cannot put a decent team on the ice this year their future is bleak and they know it. It’s not a matter of distance that fans must travel to a game. That rationale has been over used. When teams win people will eagerly travel long distances to watch the winner. A team that is a contender also fills seats in suites and attracts more expensive advertising dollars…the lifeblood of any team. Each extra playoff game earns in the neighborhood of a million dollars and can spell the difference between a bottom line in the black and a bottom line in the red.
Another important issue finally resolved is that of distribution of the bankruptcy Operating Reserve Account as follows: “10. The Parties acknowledge and understand that in the Bankruptcy Settlement, subject to approval by the Court, the Bankruptcy Lawsuit (the “Bankruptcy Court”), the Operating Reserve Account shall be distributed as follows: $350,000 to the City, $10,000 to the David Reaves, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Arena Management Group, L.L.C., and $640,000 to Ice Arizona.”
In the same radio interviews, Sherwood stated that he wants “to see a new contract (with IceArizona) in 6 to 9 months, by April of 2016.” LeBlanc stated IceArizona “wants a contract extension immediately” to bring “certainty.” Obviously it is an option both parties will need to pursue. Let us hope they can be successful in crafting a lease extension that is not build on the backs of Glendale’s taxpayers. No one can object to a lease agreement that is fair and equitable.
Be advised it doesn’t matter what the action or situation is, municipal governments do not move quickly. While an immediate contract extension is IceArizona’s goal, the caution is to not become frustrated if the action is not completed quickly. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I first joined city council I had ideas for projects in my district. I mistakenly thought they could be accomplished instantly. Not so. I became satisfied if a project could be completed within a year. It’s the very nature of government. All action is slow, overly deliberate, and far more complicated than it often needs to be.
Everyone appears to be relieved the issue is resolved for now. Let’s hope this positive action leads to further positive outcomes for both parties.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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