The best thing about revisiting the Glendale City Council meeting on Wednesday night, in which they cancelled their arena lease with the Arizona Coyotes, is that it scratched my “Parks and Recreation” itch.
There was the outsized vitriol from Arizona Coyotes fans, channeling years of frustration from the council’s administrative clownishness into passionate roasts of each member. There were the petty local politics, in which a signed contract was sought to be cancelled through some obtuse loophole. Really, we were one Leslie Knope speech and April Ludgate eye-roll away from a lost episode.
“I go to all Coyotes games because I've been a season-ticket holder for several years now -- full season -- not a half season, not a partial season -- full season. I've seen you at games, so many games, a number of times sporting a jersey that looks just like this one with 'Mayor' on the back and 'Number 1' on the back.
“How much did you pay for your jersey? How much did you pay for your tickets for those games? Because I know I paid a hell of a lot more than you did. I support this team. You don't. You don't show up to games and pay for your tickets! None of you do.
"Why were you at the Super Bowl? Because you didn't buy a ticket -- someone gave you tickets. What happened to all the events that comes with the Super Bowl? The NFL moved them to Scottsdale because of you.
"Look at all these people who showed up supporting this team last minute. I hauled butt to get here, so I could speak my mind. Because I support this team. It's you that doesn't support any sport in this city -- not football and certainly not hockey.
"What you're doing is childish and it's pathetic and it's disrespectful to the citizens who voted you in office. And for all of us who spent so much time and energy supporting this team when you never did."
We are all Center Ice Sweety.
In the end, none of this grandstanding mattered, because the council had already decided that the best way to sweeten the deal they agreed to with the Coyotes was to cancel the current contract. The city of Glendale lost $8.1 million on its $15 million investment last year, and is projected to lose $8.7 million this year, a year in which the Coyotes were abjectly terrible before they were intentionally terrible in an effort to gain the top pick in the draft.
So they ginned up some reasons to break the deal. Like the inference that Craig Tindall, a former Glendale city attorney, worked for the Coyotes in 2013 while getting severance from Glendale. According to the Arizona Republic, “the State Bar of Arizona last summer found that there was no merit” to that complaint. And yet, it was cited last night, if vaguely.
There likely other lawerly loopholes and such that the city will fall back on. And the Coyotes will respond in kind with a flurry of lawsuits against the city – not only to force an injunction against the cancellation of the lease.
After the vote, attorney Nicholas Wood said the team would file for injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order, and file a $200 million lawsuit against the City.
"What we have witnessed here tonight is possibly the most shameful exhibition of government I have ever witnessed," Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. "The citizens of Glendale should be very concerned about the government that they have leading them right now, because this was not appropriate… We have been absolutely wronged this evening by a group that is acting in incredibly bad faith."
He added: "Our view is the team will remain here, but the City is not acting in a business-friendly way and should be ashamed."
The lawsuit is going to include claims that the actions of the city council have harmed the Coyotes’ ability to generate revenue. And there’s zero chance they wouldn’t win that lawsuit if it’s found the council’s actions were without merit here.
You have to love the self-defeating logic by Glendale, in which their actions prevent the Coyotes from turning a profit while trying to break a contract because they lose too much money.
There's a lot of second-guessing going on in Glendale these days, a lot of regret over the choices of the past that brought pro sports to town. But there are no time machines, no means to go back and change those decisions.
Wednesday's vote may feel like one, but it only makes the situation worse.Some members of the council majority need to come to their senses and change their votes.Glendale didn't have a great hand before Wednesday night. It wasn't improved by shouting that the deck was stacked against them, railing against unkind fortune and guaranteeing that lawyers will be well paid while losses mount for the city and the merchants who thought its word was good.
The underlying fact about all of this is that, apparently, Coyotes ownership actually wants the team to remain in Arizona. This would seem to be the perfect time to get all contract-breaky with Glendale and U-Haul it up to Seattle, but if they’re willing to battle this in the courts, well, that’s dedication I guess.
Or they just hate their Glendale political opponents with the fury of 1,000 burning suns.
Let’s face it: Glendale’s the problem.
It’s always been the problem. The Coyotes used to play in downtown Phoenix in the American West Arena, with the Suns. It was a basketball arena that was an ill-fit for hockey. So they wanted to build an arena in Scottsdale. That plan fell through, so it was off to Glendale, where they played in a beautiful facility that was a complete pain in the backside for fans to travel for games.
Attendance sucked and money was lost and ownership changed and we really don’t have to relive the Jim Balsillie thing again here, do we? The abridged version: BlackBerry billionaire finds backdoor into NHL ownership through bankruptcy, Gary Bettman slams it shut, the keys to the Coyotes fly in the air, the NHL grabs them, and then spends years trying to gift them to someone else before finding a taker.
That’s one problem with Glendale. The other problem was on display on Wednesday night: Local politicians that one minute see the team as a vital panacea for a boondoggle of a project around the arena, and then next minute are breaking a contract over minutia.
If the Coyotes’ mess is a circus, then the Glendale City Council is the organ grinder with the dancing monkey; a collection of shortsighted bureaucrats that aren’t fit to manage an Arby’s let alone a multi-million dollar arena leasing deal with a professional sports team.
So get out of Glendale.
Does that mean leave Arizona. Not necessarily. While relocation will very much be on the table if this ruling is upheld in subsequent lawsuits, there is another option, albeit a Hail Mary:
Moving back to downtown Phoenix.
Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski said Wednesday morning that he's pushing to move the Coyotes to downtown. Nowakowski said he and Mayor Greg Stanton have agreed to work together on a potential plan to lure the team. Nowakowski envisions the team eventually sharing a new arena with the Phoenix Suns — Suns management has quietly begun talks with city officials about plans for an arena to replace US Airways Center, which is among the oldest in the NBA.
"I looks like there's an opportunity to actually bring the Coyotes now," said Nowakowski, whose district includes parts of downtown. "I'm trying to reach out to them and have those conversations. It will be myself and the mayor working on it. But nothing has been set up yet."
Here’s the thing: The Coyotes have considered Phoenix the least of their options if things went sideways in Glendale. Until Wednesday night. Wednesday night changed things, and you can expect momentum to build here, even if it ends up just leveraging Glendale in negotiations.
Look, who the hell knows if hockey will work in Arizona? Gary Bettman and the NHL believe it will, and don’t want to lose the market. I tend to agree with the Coyotes fans who point to the move to Glendale as the creeping cancer that might one day consume the franchise.
A move back to Phoenix would position this team is succeed more than remaining in the seventh level of local political hell in which they currently reside. I would rather take a staple gun to my cornea than ever have to watch another session of passionate hockey fans being treated like lepers by hypocrites on a power trip.
Will it work? Let’s hope it does. For the sake of the lepers. For the sake of the owners, who are pouring millions into a black hole right now. For the sake of the NHL, which is better with a strong team in that region (especially if Vegas is on the way).
And for the sake of Glendale, who will finally stop losing money, will finally stop jerking fans around with a new direction for the Coyotes every few months, and who will hopefully sit back and watch this team pack a new building and cut their losses somewhere other than the council members' arid fiefdom.
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