On June 8 the Glendale City Council voted 4-2 in favor of a 20-year, $325 million lease agreement with Phoenix Coyotes suitor Greg Jamison.
Coyotes fans were ecstatic to hear that their team, who have called Arizona home since relocating from Winnipeg in 1996, finally had an owner. The team had been through a three-year tumultuous battle that included bankruptcy, failed negotiations and relocation threats and now, finally, the Coyotes were on the verge of having a new owner.
However, the watchdog group known as the Goldwater Institute were upset with the ruling. Less than a week after the ruling Goldwater sued the city of Glendale, alleging improprieties.
Tuesday the parties met in court and according to the Arizona Republic's Lisa Halverstadt, "Judge Dean Fink ordered Glendale to make it clear the deal didn't garner enough council support to make it effective on the day of the June 8 vote, opening the door for a possible ballot initiative against the 20-year lease agreement with Coyotes suitor Greg Jamison. Now Glendale and the Goldwater Institute, which sued the city to invalidate the council vote, wait for Fink's ruling."
This all may be confusing to the casual fan, so lets lay out the basics.
Gary Bettman and the NHL:
Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, is optimistic the 'Yotes will stay in Glendale. The NHL have owned and operated the team since the franchise declared bankruptcy three years ago. The Coyotes have operated under the limitations of not having an owner over this time period, but have continued to be perennial playoff contenders.
Bettman said late Tuesday, "the Coyotes have been scheduled to play in Phoenix. Our hope and expectation is that all of the efforts that have been worked on and are continuing to be worked on will come to fruition."
Jamison is best known for the time he spent as the CEO of the San Jose Sharks franchise. He turned the team around and made them one of the most respected organizations in all of sports. Jamison is now the head of a group of investors who are trying to buy the Coyotes.
"The Coyotes-Glendale situation has had an interesting history; sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes sideways," Jamison said after the June 8 ruling. "But what right now we're talking about the future and I believe in the city of Glendale."
Glendale City Council:
The Glendale City Council voted on June 8, 4-2 in favor of the agreement with Jamison. However, the language in the agreement stated that five of the seven members of the council must vote in favor of the agreement for it to go into action the day of the vote (one member was absent).
Attorney Gary Birnbaum, who represents Glendale, said after Tuesdays vote, "The NHL has been searching for three years to find an owner and Mr. Jamison is the ONLY person who can do it. Anything else is speculative. There really is only one person and that is the prospective owner."
Joyce Clark, a pro-arena deal member of the Glendale City Council, tweeted Tuesday, "Coyotes Troops: It's not over until the fat lady sings and this fat lady isn't singing yet. The opposition has to get 1862 valid signatures and turn them in on July 9 (July 8 is a Sunday). They really need at least 2450 to account for invalid signatures and they have to do it in 18 days with a long July 4th weekend. I'm not saying it's not do-able but it will be very, very difficult."
GWI's slogan is, "Where Freedom Wins." The conservative watchdog group is trying to convince the public, and a judge Dean Fink, that the Glendale's deal with Jamison is bad for the taxpayers who live in Glendale.
The Goldwater Institute receives donations from 48 states, and nearly 80 percent comes from outside of Arizona. Goldwater used tactics similar to these to sink Matthew Hulsizer's bid for the Coyotes last year. Even if GWI does not succeed in court, the mere uncertainty that a long drawn out process provides could scare away potential investors in Jamison's group.
E.J. Montini, a columnist with the Arizona Republic, questioned GWI's intentions in an article on June 10. "But just because they (GWI) can sue, should they? The bigger questions are: Will gutting what is clearly a bad deal make things better? Or will the possible loss of the hockey team and everything that goes with that in terms of jobs and adjacent businesses make the situation in Glendale even worse? Those issues mean nothing to Goldwater donors from outside of Arizona. Just as the donors in those other states couldn't care less if a Goldwater lawsuit makes it more difficult on the police officers who patrol our streets."
Joe Cobb and Ken Jones:
Cobb and Jones are the plaintiffs being represented by GWI. They will be working to gather signatures and have until July 9 to gather enough signatures for a public referendum on the agreement.
"We've already won something; we know we can have a referendum now," said Jones. "That will give the citizens of Glendale a chance to speak. They've never had that before."
What The Fans Are Saying
I asked for input from Phoenix Coyotes fans around the Valley on the ruling and here are what they are saying.
"The Coyotes mean so much more to me than just a little bit of entertainment. They are a means of spending time with my son, and going to games gives me the chance to stay close to him as he grows from a boy into a young man. They are an asset to the community, giving their time and helping raise funds for local groups. They are an inspiration to our young people, giving them role models for physical fitness as well as character and teamwork. They are a local treasure, one that the GWI would like to destroy for the sake of ideology and notoriety, no matter what benefits they bring to our community."
"I've been to Westgate on game nights. The place is hopping with people dining, shopping, and spending money. I've also been to Westgate on non-game/event nights and the place is empty. If the Coyotes leave, Westgate will remain empty, turn into a ghost town, and taxpayers will be paying on an arena that isn't being used! The Coyotes are the only reason I step foot in Glendale. I bring a lot of friends to games and we always eat, drink, and sometimes shop prior to games. Without the Coyotes, I have no reason to visit Glendale. "
- Ronda Pearson
"I grew up playing hockey and loving the sport since I was a young boy. When we got this team in 1996 I was so excited. I didn't get to see many games due to the fact that I joined the Navy a year after the team moved here and served 12 years. I did go to a few games when I was home on leave and I followed the team the entire time. Now that I am home I am at all the home games and to make it better, my 4-year-old son loves this team. He knows about all the other sports but the only one he care about and gets excited about is hockey and the Coyotes. I didn't think being a father could get any better than it already was, but going to games and watching games with him and seeing how excited he got about this team and sport is just awesome. To explain to my son why he doesn't get to go to a Coyotes game anymore will just break my heart."
- Andrew Dent
"We travel in our SUV multiple times a week, during rush hour traffic, all the way out to Glendale just to see the Coyotes play. We have been season ticket holders since day one. We don't always go to Westgate, but occasionally we do before and/or after the Coyotes games. When we do, we spend a handsome amount of money in the center. If it weren't for this wonderful team, we would never set foot in Glendale. We were at Westgate during the week one day and it was so dead, we weren't even sure if the shops were open! Keeping this team will keep this city afloat with all the money being poured in from game nights. I can guarantee you that if this deal doesn't follow through, we will NOT go out of our way to set foot in Glendale again. This team is more than just some sport in Arizona, it means the world to me."
- Nicole Maggio
"It means a lot to me, having three retail hockey stores in greater Phoenix. Without an NHL team here is would have a huge impact on hockey at all levels."
- Randy Exelby
What The Future Holds
Judge Fink ruled only part of the ordinance as invalid, and he is expected to issue a decision on the remainder soon.
Coyotes fans and Glendale residents now have to do what anyone does before they vote or sign a petition: Be informed and have an opinion. If someone approaches you with a petition, do not sign it for the sake of shutting them up.
Sure, Listen to their ideas, but form your opinion.
Inform Glendale is a site that has been launched in an effort to inform hockey fans around the Valley. The site list various facts about the lease agreement, the Goldwater Institute and the repercussions of the team not being located in Glendale anymore.
You can even find links to official documents including: the arena lease and management agreement, non-competition and non-relocation agreement, and a comparison of operating cost for similar arenas.
They also list the contacts for the city of Glendale representatives and the Goldwater Institute.