It has been 17 years and 195 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Recently ‘thevintageguy,’ one of the regular commenters to my blog posts, offered an interesting idea. He calculated that if every hockey ticket for every game had a surcharge of $24 it would generate $15M annually in revenue. If that surcharge were applied IceArizona would not need the City of Glendale to pay $15M a year for a management fee.

I decided to explore that idea but first, some history. The city owned arena opened in December of 2003. Let me remind you there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Steve Ellman led a group of investors who bought the Coyotes. Ellman may be many things to many people but he took immense pride in the arena, the Coyotes and the events he booked. Back then concerts were far more frequent. Bette Midler, Britney Spears, Elton John and U2, to name just a few performers, played at the arena in its early years. During the years of his ownership of the team the Arizona Sting (now defunct) also played all of its games at the arena. While the Arizona Sting was probably not a money maker during the years of its existence from 2003-07, each year it successfully increased its fan base. It certainly was not a deterrent to Jerry Moyes’ acquisition of Ellman’s interests.

Ellman realized how important it was to his bottom line to keep the arena busy all year long. Ellman’s downfall was his inability to develop a substantial amount of commercial and retail surrounding the arena quickly enough. To focus on that aspect of his business he sold his interest in the hockey team to Jerry Moyes. Then the national recession hit and he was unable to hold on to his interests within Westgate.

Under Moyes there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Moyes seemed not to be as committed to the health of the team and its bottom line as Ellman had been. Unfortunately Moyes ran the team’s finances into the ground. Apparently he diverted team revenue to his other businesses and subsidiaries. By 2009, Moyes asked the city to begin payment of a management fee of $12M a year. The city refused. Moyes declared team bankruptcy all the while working a secret deal with Jim Balsillie to buy the team out of bankruptcy. The court stopped that scheme and the NHL assumed control of the team. The NHL demanded an annual management fee of $25M knowing that the city needed to buy time until a new team owner was secured. It was precedent setting. From that point forward any potential owner of the team had a green light to require that the city pay a management fee.

In 2013, IceArizona bought the team with the NHL’s blessing and so the management fee scheme was retained with the city paying $15M annually. The IA management agreement has a revenue sharing component but the revenues generated annually and paid to the city have been approximately $8M short every year in covering the annual $15M payment.

Recently the city council voted to cancel the contract with IceArizona (IA) alleging a conflict of interest by two former city employees. IA immediately went to court and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The judge required the city to make its quarterly payment of $3.75M on July 1, 2015 to pay for services already rendered and the city has done so. The court also required IA to post a bond of $1M and IA has done so. On July 29, 2015 both parties will be back in court and the judge will make a determination if the TRO should become permanent pending the outcome of the suit regarding the contract cancellation.

On Monday, July 13, 2015, the Glendale city council met in executive session. It is my strong belief that the subject of that meeting was the litigation between IA and the city. I suspect IA made an offer amending the existing contract and their offer was rejected. It appears as if the city council is convinced that its allegations are solid and provable in a court of law. Just think about it. If there had been a desire on the part of council to accept an offer from IA there would have been a press release issued after executive session. That has not occurred.

Back to the ‘vintageguy’s’ idea. Basic research reveals the following annual attendance figures for the Coyotes, courtesy of at .

“Phoenix Coyotes Yearly Attendance Graph. This is a graph of the home attendance of the Phoenix Coyotes, a hockey team playing in the National Hockey League from 1996 to 2015. Attendance is based on numbers from a team or league, either released as an official yearly per-game average figure, or compiled into an average from individual boxscore attendance. In some cases when boxscore attendance is unavailable for a small number of games, the attendance is computed omitting the missing games and annotated as approximate. Clicking on a season’s bar will bring you to a graph of all teams in the league.”

The average attendance figure for the Coyotes for the last 5 years is 13,133. Multiply that figure by 41 games a year and the average total attendance for a season of 41 games is 538,453. If you divide $15M (annual city payment of management fee) by 538,453 each ticket for each and every game would require an additional $27.85. If a hockey fan were to buy a ticket for each of the 41 games per year the additional annual amount he/she would pay would be $1,141.85. What do all of these numbers mean? If hockey fans paid more for every ticket IceArizona would not need the $15M a year from the city. Now that sounds like a plan.

Let’s look at it another way. Each year even with IA’s revenue sharing the city is in deficit for the $15M annual payment by about $8M a year. If revenue sharing were to remain and the same ticket increase scheme were used to cover the $8M a year deficit, each ticket would need to be increased by $14.85 which comes to a total increase for a fan attending all 41 games of $608.85 a year.

I believe my figures are correct but even if they are off a bit don’t get bogged down in the numbers. Instead consider the concept. If fans were charged more per ticket per game with or without IA revenue sharing there would be no need for the city to pay an annual management fee of $15M. That would surely solve the city’s annual Coyotes related deficit. Whether it is $27.85 or $14.85 per ticket per game the sixty four dollar question is are Coyotes fans willing to pay either extra amount to keep the team in Glendale? Is it possible for them to redirect their negative anger to a more positive action – that of paying more to keep their team?

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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