It has been 18 years and 75 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
On February 26, 2016 Arizona Sports ran a story on Anthony LeBlanc’s reaction to Mayor Jerry Weiers’ remarks at his State of the City address. Here is the link: http://arizonasports.com/story/566510/arizona-coyotes-ceo-glendale-may-want-us-to-stay-but-not-being-realistic/ .
In his prepared remarks with reference to the Coyotes the Mayor said, “I need to be clear about this. I want the Coyotes to stay in Glendale. The city wants the Coyotes to remain in Glendale. We have, since day-one, invited them to remain engaged in this process.” In his recent remarks Mr. LeBlanc said this about the Coyotes’ refusal to engage in the bid process to manage Glendale’s arena, “…the team did not submit a bid to manage the arena because it refused to participate in a ‘flawed process’.” LeBlanc did not elaborate on his characterization of a “flawed process.”
Mr. LeBlanc went on to say, “I think they do want us to stay, but I don’t think they’re looking through a realistic lens of what that means.” Translate this statement to read that in his view “a realistic lens of what that means” is the Coyotes would only stay if Glendale continues to subsidize a portion of their annual loss. LeBlanc, et. al., may have retired their Fortress loan by adding additional owners but don’t forget they still owe a boat load of money to the NHL for another loan that covered buying the team.
What governmental entity is not only going to build a new hockey arena but also subsidize the Coyotes’ annual loss? It’s Glendale all over again. Tempe? Scottsdale? Probably not. Phoenix? Perhaps it can bury its subsidization of the Coyotes within possible plans to build a new facility for joint use by the Suns and the Coyotes.
The Coyotes want to manage their own facility. Then they collect all of the revenue generated by non-hockey events and they can claim a management fee that not only covers their cost to manage but off-sets their annual loss.
LeBlanc praised a recently approved deal between Broward County, Florida and the NHL Florida Panthers. The deal allows the Panthers to get nearly all of the arena revenue and reduces any profit-sharing between the Panthers and the county. Since the Panthers first season in 1993-94 the Broward county’s public subsidy of the team has been $342 million (an estimated $14 million a year). It should be noted that the Panthers lost $36 million last year and another $27 million the previous year. Of course LeBlanc would think that’s a wonderful deal. Reality is that the majority of NHL teams can’t survive without public financial support. That has been the model for years but many governmental entities are under financial pressure and can no longer afford this type of model. It is a model destined to die in the future as the public clamors for sports franchises to pay their own way.
LeBlanc said three options are still being discussed. They are a shared arena with the Phoenix Suns in downtown, a partnership with Arizona State University or an arena in Scottsdale’s Loop 101 corridor. Hey, if the City of Phoenix wants to pony up and pay the Coyotes to play downtown, congratulations to all. Previously the Suns and the Coyotes shared an arena downtown and it was the fans who suffered with terrible sight lines while watching the games.
Is the Arizona State Legislature delusional? It has budget problems. Will it allow a portion of its allocation of state public money to be used to pay for a new hockey arena instead of educational purposes? It seems doubtful that Scottsdale will wish to pay the Coyotes to play in their town. It would be déjà vu as they refused to do so in 2001.
LeBlanc said if a new arena is built it will take at least three years. He went on to say they would “rather not move twice in five years.” Here is where the situation becomes problematical. Glendale and IceArizona currently have a two year agreement that allows IceArizona to manage the arena for $6 million per year. The first year of that agreement is nearly up leaving only one more year of IceArizona’s management. After that it is assumed AEG, the presumed new arena manager, and IceArizona will have to negotiate short-term tenancy for two more years. Will they be able to craft a mutually satisfactory tenancy arrangement? Then the question becomes if IceArizona can live with the deal for two years, why can’t it live with the deal permanently? Can LeBlanc and company afford to rebuild its fan base in another part of the Valley while it continues to rebuild the team?
No matter what the outcome I continue to have greatest respect and admiration for the players. They have endured a great deal since Jerry Moyes put the team into bankruptcy in 2009. They are a great group of men who certainly deserve more stability than they have had. They deserve better. Let’s see if cooler heads can prevail and a deal that benefits all entities can be achieved permanently. Isn’t it time?
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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