Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Noose Made From Pride

I want to be happy for the city of Glendale. The city council voted last night, and the 4-3 vote in favor of keeping the Coyotes had a number of people very happy. Among those that smiled were the people involved in Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, the group now charged with saving hockey in Phoenix. They also have the responsibility of filling the Arena as best they can in exchange for $15 million annually from the city of Glendale as they assume the job of managing the arena for the next fifteen years. There's just one problem: there are no events scheduled for the Arena in the future. So for what, exactly, is the city of Glendale paying?

If one looks at the calendar of events scheduled for the remainder of this calendar year, there is exactly one non-hockey event scheduled at Arena: New Kids On The Block with special guests 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men play there on July 14. If we check August, there's nothing scheduled. Ditto for September, October, November, and December. If it weren't for the Coyotes, the Arena would be empty for the next six months until January 24, 2014 rolled around. That's the day when the Nitro Circus - a BMX, motocross, and skateboarding extravaganza - rolls into town. Beyond that day, nothing is booked as well.

So exactly what is the city of Glendale paying for in terms of arena management? If there are no events scheduled outside of hockey, what is the "arena management" monies going to if there is nothing to manage?

For years, the city of Glendale was worried about how this massive structure would sit unused if the Coyotes left Glendale for greener pastures. They talked about the $160 million in debt that the city was responsible for in building this arena. They blabbed about how not having the Coyotes would basically bankrupt the city as the arena went unused without the hockey team. In other words, the city needed the building used for it to be viable. That doesn't seem like a very abstract theory, right?

Well, I hate to point out the calendars above, but that isn't what is happening right now. There are two non-hockey events scheduled 194 days apart at Arena, and the city of Glendale is worried that it will sit empty without the Coyotes? Seriously?

There isn't one major arena on the planet that schedules non-hockey events 194 days apart. How is it that the US Airways Arena in Phoenix has a number of different events happening over the summer, and yet none of them are booked in at Glendale, a mere half-hour from Phoenix? Who is currently managing the Arena, and why are they being paid if not one concert or event is coming through that arena?

If I'm a citizen of Glendale, I would have serious concerns about this deal with Renaissance Sports and Entertainment and the subcontracted Global Spectrum group that will look after the arena's bookings. Essentially, the $15 million "arena management" fee being charged to the city each year for the next fifteen years is nothing more than pennies from heaven for Renaissance Sports and Entertainment in terms of managing the losses accrued in operating the Arizona Coyotes. If there are no events scheduled, what is the city of Glendale paying Renaissance Sports and Entertainment and Global Spectrum to do when it comes to managing the arena? How does one manage nothing other than hockey dates - something for which an NHL owner already is responsible when the team is the main tenant?

These are questions that will surely play out over the next few years now that Glendale has given the team its assurance that it will pay handsomely. There is no out-clause for Glendale, something the city's lawyers had stressed be included, so the city is on the hook for the full $225 million over the next fifteen years if the Coyotes remain in Glendale. Renaissance Sports and Entertainment called the city's out-clause after five years a "deal killer", yet they have one in place to protect their own monies? Anyone see a problem here?

The out-clause that Renaissance Sports and Entertainment has built into their agreement in taking over the team states that after five years they can opt out of this agreement if they are losing bundles of money to examine moving the team elsewhere. Based on the team's track record in the desert, there's little to believe that things will change dramatically, but one has to be optimistic in cases like this. Otherwise, there's no point in continuing this exercise in futility.

To paraphrase, had the city protected its interests with respect to $225 million of taxpayer money, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment would have balked on the deal. To put that in perspective, this is a city that has closed libraries, closed community centers, cut the police force dramatically, and is basically living on scraps when it comes to ensuring that essential services remain in place. Yet they can't protect a vast amount of money that would be needed to enhance these services if things go sour? I'm not a lawyer, but this almost seems like extortion when one considers the details.

But, and I say this with all honesty, there is hope.

There is one saving grace after all of this chicanery, and I want to make something very clear so that I'm not just going to be viewed as Mr. Negative. If the people of Glendale and Phoenix really are interested in keeping their team, it's time to show that now. Buy season tickets over the next five years. Buy merchandise. Do whatever you can to prove to the NHL that they haven't made a mistake in keeping the faith that the Phoenix-Glendale is a hockey market.

To borrow a line from Jerry Maguire, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment is now asking the hockey fans in Arizona to "show me the money". Because if they don't, we may be doing this same dance in five years as Renaissance Sports and Entertainment looks to move the team once again. They hold the cards as they have the out-clause, and that's something that should have been a deal-breaker for the city when you look at the history of this team.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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