Coyotes Update

The Glendale City Council voted unanimously in favor of a restructured arena lease agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, keeping the team in the desert for at least two more years.

Photo: Paul Kucher
in Glendale, Ariz. 

The deal approved by the seven-member council replaces a 15-year, $225 million arena management agreement signed in 2013. The new deal cuts Glendale’s annual arena management fee to the Coyotes from $15 million to $6.5 million, turns all hockey-related profits over to the Coyotes and rescinds a five-year out clause the team had in the original agreement.

“This is fair arrangement for the city, a fair arrangement for the taxpayers and a fair arrangement for the Coyotes and our fans and our sponsors,” Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said.

The new deal comes after the City Council voted June 10 to terminate the original arena lease agreement, citing a conflict-of-interest law. The Coyotes obtained a temporary restraining order two days later and the two sides were likely facing a long court battle with the team threatening to sue the city.

The new deal allows Glendale to cut costs and gives the Coyotes a chance to work out a new long-term deal or explore other options like a new arena in downtown Phoenix.

“It truly was a truly unpleasant process, but I think it was something that was necessary,” Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said. “This is a decision that benefits the entire city, the Coyotes, the Coyotes fans, which have proven they are very vocal. At the same time, we represent our citizens and we have to uphold that. I think this accomplishes all of that.”

The council voted to void the original arena lease agreement, citing an Arizona statute that allows a government entity to end an agreement if a person who worked on the deal later represents the other party. Former city attorney Craig Tindall was the Coyotes general counsel before being terminated under the new deal with the city and former Glendale communications director Julie Frisoni did consulting work for the team after leaving her job.

The Coyotes responded swiftly to the decision, threatening a multimillion-dollar lawsuit while vowing to stick to the original agreement signed by IceArizona shortly after it bought the team from the NHL two years ago.

The team’s stance changed with the start of the NHL’s free agency period.

While talking to agents, the Coyotes learned several players would not even consider playing in Arizona because of the team’s uncertain future. The Coyotes were still able to land a decent free-agency haul, bringing back former players Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon and Zbynek Michalek, but could only get Mikkel Boedker — one of the team’s best young players — to sign a one-year deal.

“It’s one thing if we lose a suite or a sponsor, which are very important to us, but if our GM Don Maloney is handcuffed in putting together a roster, we have no choice but to fix it,” LeBlanc said. “This isn’t about saving face from either my perspective or the Coyotes perspective. This is about saving our franchise.”

But with the deal will certainly come more speculation about the team’s future.

The Coyotes have faced relocation speculation since former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009 and it continued even after IceArizona bought the team. Conjecture that the team was moving surfaced again last year when Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway bought a 51 percent stake in the team and ramped up again last month with the council’s decision to end the lease agreement.

LeBlanc has said all along that the Coyotes are committed to remaining in the desert despite low attendance and struggles on the ice the past couple of seasons. He reiterated that stance after the new deal was ratified, saying the team is hoping to work out a long-term deal with Glendale.

“I have a message to those who are speculating on our plans: We did not agree to a two-year agreement so we could relocate in the future,” LeBlanc said. “The simple truth is, if we wanted to leave we had the out to do so this summer. We didn’t take it. We fought as hard as we needed to because we believe in this market. We have never changed our opinion on that simple fact. Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what he or she is talking about.”