If the NHL cannot strike a deal with a potential owner willing to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona, the franchise will probably be moved this summer – with Quebec City one of the possible landing sites.
However, Glendale city council could finance the league-owned team with another $25-million (U.S.) payment, keeping it in place at least temporarily. The city has already paid the NHL $50-million over the last two years to subsidize losses.
City councillor Phil Lieberman is against an additional payment from the working-class city of 250,000, where the Coyotes play in Jobing.com Arena. He is also skeptical about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s statements last Thursday, about the existence of a third party interested in buying the team.
Former San Jose Sharks president Greg Jamison and local political operative John Kaites lead two groups known to be interested. Glendale council is to receive an in-camera update on the negotiations Tuesday.
This time, the $25-million payment to the NHL would be characterized as a management fee for running Jobing.com Arena.
Lieberman said it amounts to a subsidy as other managers would operate the arena for less. The city is already carrying a total debt of $1.13-billion, “and I’m not going to vote for millions and millions we would hand away on top of that,” he said.
But Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs supports such a payment and can count on three other votes among the seven-member council, so it is likely to be made if the NHL decides to keep the team in Glendale for the 2012-13 season, according to Lieberman.
Moody’s Investors Service Inc. recently downgraded Glendale’s bond rating on a portion of its debt, roughly $680-million, citing the NHL payments.
“The NHL has not accepted the two [prospective buyers]I know of, Jamison or Kaites, because otherwise they would have been after us to lease the arena to one of them. They have not made any attempt to do that, so the only obvious conclusion is [Jamison and Kaites]do not qualify,” Lieberman said of the prospect of a third, unidentified-yet-interested party.