Glendale city council to force July 2 vote on Coyotes’ future
Some time during the Glendale City Council’s executive session Tuesday afternoon, the coalition of council members in favor of a Jobing.com Arena lease deal with Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) fell apart.
They lost faith in all of the information they’d been comfortable with — swayed by a communications blitz of repackaged concerns spearheaded by Mayor Jerry Weiers.
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There was no way the council could produce deal points for a one-week public vetting prior to a July 2 vote on the future of the Phoenix Coyotes because there was no deal. The deal was dead.
Meanwhile, just out of a series of meetings with the NHL in New York, one of RSE’s principals, Anthony LeBlanc, was celebrating his 43rd birthday when he got the news. Feeling betrayed and utterly spent after a lengthy effort to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, LeBlanc instructed his attorneys to pull his arena-lease bid off the table.
With Renaissance out of the picture, less than two days before the NHL Board of Governors was due to meet, the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes was sealed. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was told it was time for Plan B — whatever that might be.
Then the Coyotes ownership saga did what it always does: It veered in another direction.
Somehow, in the last hours of Tuesday and the wee hours of Wednesday morning, everything changed. The deal gained new life, its supporters decided to give it one more go and Wednesday morning the deal points were being prepared for release to the public.
Sources told FOX Sports Arizona on Wednesday that council member Gary Sherwood and Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack will force a vote on the deal on July 2, a tactic that is well within their rights. Four yes votes are required for passage in what is believed to be a make-or-break vote for the team’s future in Glendale.
Sherwood and Knaack also want the deal points posted on the city’s website Wednesday. The release of the deal points and contract comes just ahead of a deadline the NHL had set for the release of such information: At the end of the business day, Wednesday — in anticipation of Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting.
UPDATE: As of 9:40 p.m. (Arizona time), no deal points were posted on the Glendale City website: www.glendaleaz.com, and there was no notice of a special City Council meeting on July 2. It was unclear what impact that would have on the NHL as it prepared for the Board of Governors meeting Thursday. An email to deputy commissioner Bill Daly was not immediately returned.
Where do we go from here? Given the rampant and rapid twists and turns this story has taken over the past four years, no one can say. Opponents of this deal still want more guarantees on revenue that RSE will not give, reasoning that both sides should assume some risk in a business deal, and that Glendale bears some burden because it chose to build the arena.
This much, however, can be safely predicted: There will be more behind-the-scenes shenanigans, more political plays, more alliances being leveraged.
Behind the scenes, other ownership groups may continue their quest through local lobbyists or local attorneys.
Some of the questions surround John Kaites, a longtime chum of Weiers with deep business ties to the city who visits City Hall frequently and has long been pursuing the purchase of this team. What are his ties to one of the two arena-management bids that are up for consideration if the Coyotes leave, and what will he and his elected buddy do if this deal appears to have traction?
Will Matthew Hulsizer’s representatives offer more infusions of equity into RSE’s deal out of the goodness of their hearts, as multiple sources say they have proposed? Or will they finally realize everyone knows there are very real strings attached — in the form of a prominent role in the hockey operations department that might end GM Don Maloney’s relationship with the team?
Maybe public opinion will hold some sway. Maybe another well-timed release of a red herring will alter the climate once again, as some believe Tuesday’s idea of leveraging City Hall did to the uninitiated in this saga. Maybe the mayor has another power play up his sleeve.
But the deal points are expected to be on the table later Wednesday for everyone to see, so there can at least be some clarity.
If the city decides to go ahead with this deal, the votes will tell who shares the credit or blame for whatever the Coyotes do in Glendale from here on out.
And if the deal fails, it should be abundantly clear now that Weiers is the responsible party.
If the city comes out the other end of the Coyotes deal in fine shape, Weiers should get the credit and congratulations for his foresight.
But if Westgate falters, businesses close, Jobing.com Arena fails to secure enough events in a highly competitive market, city revenue falls and the picture turns as bleak as some have suggested it will, that, too, will be on Weiers.
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