Gary Bettman, the chief drawer of lines in the sand over the past four years during the NHL ‘sownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, made another one Thursday. This time he says he really means it: If the city of Glendale fails to guarantee the franchise by Tuesday a $15 million annual public subsidy, the team will be sold out of town. Really.
That means Seattle, the latest city of pro sports record to hold the paperwork to “Plan B,” may be in line to inherit the Coyotes for a planned arena developed by Chris Hansen in SoDo that has yet to be approved.
“If the council doesn’t approve it so this transaction can close, I don’t think the Coyotes will be playing there anymore,” Bettman said in New York Thursday after an annual meeting of the NHL Board of Governors. “The fact of the matter is we haven’t ironed out or put into effect a Plan B. We have lots of options.
“I find it difficult to conceive why, if the council turns this down, we would want to keep the team in Glendale any longer. We would then, if they turn it down, have to deal with possibilities and the options that will be available to us. And they are numerous. There is enough time.”
NHL training camps begin in 2½ months, and the schedule must be released in early July, so there is little debate that urgency is upon the city and the league. A vote of the council is scheduled for Tuesday on a proposal from Renaissance Sports & Entertainment group to buy the club from the NHL for $170 million as long as the guarantee is in place to help obtain commercial loans.
Glendale is facing a dilemma: Continuing to contribute tax dollars to a money-losing franchise, or see multiple businesses lose money or close because of the arena’s loss of its anchor tenant.
Unlike the circumstances surrounding the NBA Kings in Sacramento, there is no large, untapped local momentum to save the team in a busy sports market. The league has long been trying to sell the franchise to a series of would-be buyers. Now that the NHL owners have a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union that they can live with, patience has run out.
Hansen, the Seattle native who tried and failed to get the Kings to Seattle, is eager to regain momentum for his arena project. He said publicly he is open to an NHL-first arrangement, as long as the city council rewrites the memorandum of understanding to accommodate.
But the temporary home for the team, KeyArena, is woefully undersized for NHL crowds at 11,000. The owners of the team would have large operational losses until Hansen’s arena project gets built in two to three years.
And Seattle is not the lone candidate for relocation. Quebec City has an arena under construction. When deputy commissioner Bill Daly was asked about the possibility of Quebec City in New York Thursday, he said, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
“Hansen, the Seattle native who tried and failed to get the Kings to Seattle, is eager to regain momentum for his arena project. He said publicly he is open to an NHL-first arrangement, as long as the city council rewrites the memorandum of understanding to accommodate.”
The NHL owners should be made to contribute $290 million, just like the NBA owners would contribute. l That would add up to $580 million — easily enough to pay for a new arena without any tax revenues subsidizing pro sports business in a new arena.
No public revenues are going to the arena. The public part is a lease purchase that provides municipal construction bonds up to $200M that will be repaid out of arena ops. It is public participation, using its cheaper borrowing capacity, but not tax revs. I am presuming that Hansen will get cash from the hockey owner as part of the $290M private play.
Why commit to an obligation to pay $290 million toward a facility that’ll be controlled by an NBA team (who’ll get the best playing dates) while you’re playing in a substandard arena for at least three years waiting for the new one to be built…if the EIS or lawsuits don’t kill or delay it first? How is that a good deal for the NHL?
Besides, it’s a little hard to take Seattle seriously as a hockey market when the local NBC affiliate shunts the Stanley Cup Finals off to their red-headed stepchild station because they’d rather show Evening Magazine and Inside Edition instead. Yeah, I want to move my team to a city where Meeghan Black reruns are worth more than my league’s Game 7 between Chicago and Boston.
I see I missed our local concern troll…I mean crusader to the first comment! There’s a lot of room to get this done. Uncertainty in Seattle beats certain market failure in Glensdale. But it all depends on this new hockey ownership group, which we know little about. They’ll have to scrub the city’s back for the NHL to come here first and to get started on the arena.
The signatory to the MOU is Hansen’s group, ArenaCo, and the hockey owners may be tenants/partners, but may have no legal responsibility. But that is a point of negotiation.
Seattle does beat Glendale, but the NHL market here is unproven. That’s the risk in a busy market.
I doubt the NHL would be amenable to Seattle unless they could get their hands on public money. Still, I’d love it and would make a few trips over from Spokane to watch.
The NHL cares less about that than the NBA. Hansen has an MOU with city and county that commits most of the risk to his side in the arena, and the NHL knows it. And Hansen knows the prospective buyers who would relocate the team. They will have to chip in on arena costs.
Quebec’s the better bet than Seattle right now: They’re nine months into building their new arena, their existing arena seats 15,000 and has been home to an NHL team before and every game there would sell out into perpetuity because hockey isn’t a niche sport in Canada, it’s the national religion. All Seattle has to offer at this point is market size and Phoenix (a larger market than Seattle) is proving that all the TV sets in the world mean nothing if the locals aren’t buying tickets.
Quebec would sell the house, certainly, but Bettman knows the future is still in the American TV audience, no matter than PHX/ATL failures. The other factor is realignment. Keeping the Coyotes in the West is a big deal.
Bettman’s method of dealing with the city of Glendale is oddly familar. Can’t place it….
You could start your investigation with Walter O’Malley in Brooklyn about 1957, although plenty earlier mentors are available.