Coyotes’ LeBlanc is relieved by revised arena deal, hopes for long-term solution


It’s not so much the added financial risks of the Arizona Coyotes’ amended arena lease deal with the City of Glendale that bugs COO Anthony LeBlanc. Instead, he’s not a huge fan of the agreement being merely two years long.

Then again, there’s an element of beggars can’t be choosers, either.

“A two-year deal is better than no deal,” LeBlanc admitted during Friday’s press conference.

LeBlanc refuted bad blood with Glendale officials, noting that “business is business and politics is politics.” Even so, he said that he hopes to begin carving out a lengthier agreement with Glendale, possibly beginning in early August.

Some might see this as yet another Band-Aid, but it was needed nonetheless, with the Coyotes official hitting the theme of certainty repeatedly through his presser.

This seems like a short-term win for GM Don Maloney and the on-ice product, even if the revenue stream alterations bring on a greater risk/reward venture for ownership.

“I don’t want to go into free agency next year with Don dealing with the same uncertainty as last year,” LeBlanc said.

To some extent, free agents looking for term may look sideways at the Coyotes’ situation for some time, especially if progress isn’t made on another lease agreement in the coming months. Even so, two years of relative comfort is almost a luxury to a franchise that’s dealt with an almost unending torrent of turmoil.

When Katy Perry isn’t enough: Glendale’s latest beef with Coyotes, IceArizona


Sometimes even Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and the Eagles aren’t enough to turn around concert revenues.

The City of Glendale isn’t happy about IceArizona falling about $1 million short of its stated goals for Gila River Arena, as the Arizona Republic reports.

Peter Corbett’s story is basically a stream of unsettling – if sadly familiar – stats about the area, ownership group and team’s financial struggles. Here are a few key bits:

  • The arena hosted 14 concerts/events, doubling the total from the previous fiscal year. Still, a lot of free tickets were handed out – 16 percent of the 143,000 attendees – and, again, it ultimately meant falling approximately $1 million short of projections. The report indicates that they’ve been about $2 million shy of projections over two years, too.
  • Tom Duensing, Glendale interim assistant city manager, says that Glendale lost $8.15 million in 2013-14 and may lost as much as $8.5 million from this past season.
  • Hockey attendance is down 2.8 percent.
  • But, hey, there are two Taylor Swift concerts coming up!

Coyotes president Anthony LeBlanc released the following statement on the team and ownership’s behalf:

“We are pleased with the revenue generated for Coyotes games and non-hockey events at Gila River Arena thus far this year. We’ve made some great strides on the business side and we are moving in the right direction. Our goal remains to achieve profitability and we are confident that will happen in the future.”

There are variables that make this situation a little bit different, but the theme of lost cash amounts to the same old song and dance. A court hearing is set for July 31, so we’ll find out what happens next soon enough.

Glendale aims to withhold $3.75M payment to Coyotes


The latest wrinkle in the arena lease crisis between the Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale comes down to a $3.75 million payment that may just end up in limbo.

As Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports, Glendale filed a motion in court to withhold a $3.75 million fourth-quarter payment to the franchise. (KTAR News phrases it as delaying rather than withholding the payment, if that makes any difference.)

KTAR News points out that the payment is supposed to be due on July 1.

The Coyotes decided not to comment on this latest issue, according to Morgan.

Here are Morgan’s tweets, in case it seems clearer to see them in full:

(The Arizona Republic has an in-depth article on this.)

This situation makes sense considering the span of events that have happened in about the last week or so.

To review the most recent events, Glendale decided to move forward with its plan to end its 15-year, $225 million lease agreement with the Coyotes. This came after a judge provided a temporary restraining order to keep Glendale from voiding the deal. Glendale going forward with its plan prompted some harsh words from Coyotes president, CEO & co-owner Anthony LeBlanc.

It’s unclear when this nightmare situation might end for Coyotes fans, who’ve been through processes like these for years now.

Coyotes costing Glendale in municipal bond market


Investors in municipal bonds are worried about Glendale’s finances as the Arizona city waits on an owner to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and either keep them in the city-owned Arena or move them to another market.

Dow Jones reports that Glendale was forced to drop the price on $52 million in debt it sold this week, as bond buyers demanded a higher return to compensate for the perceived risk associated with the in-limbo NHL team.

Christopher Ihlefeld, managing director and portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management, tells Dow Jones that “the hockey team has been a real drain on resources” for Glendale.

Now, to be fair, the bond yields remain fairly low – “The longest maturity, in 2033, saw yields go from 3.85% initially to 4.05% in a later pricing” – but if the Coyotes end up moving away at the end of the season, what would investors demand then? According to city spokeswoman Julie Frisoni, there are “hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact the NHL team brings to the entire region.”

Stay tuned to PHT, your home for all the latest news in the fascinating world of municipal bonds. (Or munis, as we call them around here.)

Bettman says Atlanta franchise “wasn’t economically viable”


One of the biggest complaints from Thrashers fans throughout the relocation process has been the perplexity around the sale of their franchise. While the NHL appeared to do everything in its power to ensure another season for the Coyotes in Arizona, the same dogged determinate was noticeably lacking in Atlanta. From an outsider, the road from sale, to purchase, to relocation seemed like a rushed affair that was little more than an afterthought. Once the city of Glendale stepped up to save the Coyotes for another season, the attention turned to Atlanta—and the deal was done before you could say “relocation fee.”

Today Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution had a length interview with the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the sale and subsequent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers. The great piece talked about the city of Glendale, the differences between the two situations (Coyotes vs. Thrashers), and any possible future for the NHL in Atlanta. Here are some of the highlights from Vivlamore’s interview with Bettman:

“In this case, the franchise wasn’t economically viable. We are not happy about it. The litmus test is: Does someone want to own the franchise? The Raine Group and current ownership were completely unsuccessful in their efforts to find a local buyer.”


We had high hopes in 1997. This is obviously not the result we envisioned or we wouldn’t have come. How we got to this position involves a number of issues and that’s why we find ourselves in the current situation.


We haven’t moved a franchise in 14 years. I think every other league has relocated a team in that span. Sometimes, as much as you hate to do it, it’s a reality. I don’t think it is a black eye on the league. I don’t think it’s a black eye on Atlanta.”

In classic Bettman form, he was able to answer just about every single question without really saying much of anything. He was willing to admit that Atlanta Spirit contributed to the team’s failure in Atlanta—but also stressed that there were a variety of reasons the team was sold to True North. Most importantly, he mentioned that the Atlanta Spirit Group had hired a firm to actively seek a buy for the franchise; since the Coyotes had not hired a firm pre-bankruptcy and were now owned by the league, they were looking for ownership groups on the team’s behalf. Some fans in Atlanta will say the team never truly looked aggressively for a local ownership—but the chance remains there were no qualified parties that were interested in the area.

Obviously, any league trying to exude stability will be hesitant to approve relocation. But as Bettman correctly states, they aren’t the only sports league that has seen teams move from city to city recently. Fans are quick to point out that the Thrashers and Coyotes are sunbelt teams that have struggled at the box office and to take root in the community. But for teams like Phoenix and formerly Atlanta, there are also success stories like the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes. Both have good attendance, are successful on the ice, and have seen hockey grow at the grassroots level in their markets. Atlanta’s major problem is that Atlanta Spirit Group didn’t help to grow the sport in the local market. Forget the team—they didn’t promote the sport.

As usual, the fans who believed in the sport (and their team) are the ones who lose in the deal. The fans who bought in to the idea that hockey could work in Atlanta, the ones who bought the tickets and merchandise; the fans who contributed the money that helped keep the team afloat for 14 years—the people who cared. Those are the people who lose when a team is relocated. For the rest of the sports fans in Atlanta, life goes on like nothing happened. In a way, they’re validated for never getting into the temporary,