So this is what it has come down to:
Hours before Glendale city council was to decide the future of the Phoenix Coyotes in the Arizona desert, an online betting site posted odds on the outcome of the vote.
Yes, you can now wager on the outcome of the Coyotes’ soap opera – at least as it pertains to how city council will vote on the controversial Section 6, Item 26 of Tuesday night’s agenda: Authorization for Lease Financing.
Incidentally, the odds-makers are suggesting it is three-to-two in favour of a positive vote, in which case the new ownership group – IceArizona, a subsidiary of Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) – will complete its purchase of the franchise from its current owners, the NHL, and the Coyotes will play on in Phoenix, for better or for worse.
If approved, the deal will ultimately cost Glendale city tax payers $225-million over 15 years, the cost of paying RSE an annual $15-million management fee to run the arena. In exchange, city council will get just under $7-million in revenue back from RSE, mostly relating to a new ticket tax and parking revenues.
On Tuesday, there was a development that may or may not sway any council members currently sitting on the fence.
RSE entered into an agreement with Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Comcast Spectacor, to run the arena, assuming the deal goes through.
Global Spectrum manages the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. In a statement first reported by Fox Arizona, Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko predicted that operating both the stadium and the Jobing.com Arena would create “unique operating efficiencies that will be financially beneficial to both venues.”
Theoretically, Global Spectrum’s 11th-hour presence in the deal could create additional dates for the arena, beyond the 45 that the anchor tenant, the Coyotes, annually provide. But whether that development has any impact on the council’s vote is anybody’s guess.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly were scheduled to fly from New York to Phoenix Tuesday afternoon in order to attend the council meeting, which starts at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
Within the last fortnight or so, the Coyotes have signed contract extensions with two key members of their management team, general manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett, as well as with their No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith. The thinking was that none of them would have agreed to stay put had they believed that the team was moving elsewhere.
In all, four of seven members of the newly elected city council will have to vote yes to approve the arena-management deal.
If council rejects the proposed arena lease agreement the NHL will ponder its various options, most of which involve immediately moving to relocate the team to a more viable market.
Among the possible destinations for the Coyotes: Seattle, Quebec City and Kansas City.
The NHL needs a definitive word out of tonight’s meeting because it impacts the schedule for next year, which the league would like to release by mid-July at the latest.
RSE is headed up a trio of Canadian investors George Gosbee, Antony LeBlanc and Daryl Jones. Jones was part of one of the Coyotes’ earliest failed suitors, Ice Edge, which was bidding for the team around the time Research In Motion’s Jim Balsillie was trying to buy the team from original owner Jerry Moyes with a view to moving it to Hamilton. Many tire kickers have come and gone in the interim, everyone from Chicago financier Matthew Hulsizer to former San Jose Sharks’ CEO Greg Jamison, who actually had a deal in place with the NHL to buy the team until his financing fell through.
So after four years of trying to keep afloat a franchise awash with red ink, the NHL’s answer will come Tuesday night.
Finally. They think.