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Glendale City Council votes in favor of arena deal

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE Ariz. -- It went to overtime on the last possible day, but the Phoenix Coyotes have taken a major step toward new ownership and a new arena deal with the city that will keep NHL hockey in Arizona.

Shortly before 11 p.m. MT on Tuesday, the Glendale City Council voted 4-3 to accept a 15-year, $225 million arena-management deal with the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) ownership group to operate Arena. RSE -- working as IceArizona -- already has agreed to a deal to purchase the Coyotes from the NHL, contingent on an arena-management deal with the city being reached.

The NHL, which has been operating the franchise for four years, still requires approval from the Board of Governors to complete the sale of the Coyotes to RSE. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance at the City Council meeting along with Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, said the closing of the sale should be done in the next couple of weeks.

"We finally have an opportunity to look forward," Commissioner Bettman said. "There's been enough looking back. It's taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get to this point, and we're grateful to the council for all of their efforts on behalf of our fans here in the Valley, on behalf of all the businesses and people whose employment depends on the Coyotes, and on behalf of everything that's gone into this -- all the hard work, all the effort -- it's nice to have an opportunity to focus on the future."

The city agreed to pay RSE $15 million annually across the next 15 years, a fee that is $9 million more than the city has budgeted for arena-management fees. But RSE agreed to return a projected $6.7 million in additional revenue streams, including parking revenues, ticket surcharges and additional arena-naming rights.

"To all the residents and taxpayers of Glendale, we are looking forward to a solid partnership and filling the building," Anthony LeBlanc of RSE said. "We are here for the long term and focused on keeping the Coyotes in the Valley and making this a long-term success. We have been cautiously optimistic that this would happen, but we're very grateful to council for making what we feel is the right decision, but not any easy one."

Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack and council members Sam Chavira, Manny Martinez and Gary Sherwood voted to accept the arena deal, while Mayor Jerry Weiers and council members Norma Alvarez and Ian Hugh voted against the measure.

If the vote had not passed, League officials had said that the Coyotes likely would end their 17-year run in the state.

"The City of Glendale made a commitment by originally building the building and by the additional things that were done over the last few years, and we wanted to make sure that this franchise finally had a chance to go forward," Commissioner Bettman said. "When the franchise is being run by the League and there's uncertainty, you never know exactly how things are going to work out. With ownership that's committed to making the franchise a success, with an opportunity for businesses and fans to know that there's no uncertainty, we think that this franchise can do very, very well."

The ownership group, comprised of Canadian businessmen LeBlanc, George Gosbee, Daryl Jones, Dave Duckett, William Dutton, George Fink, Robert Gwin and Avik Dey, negotiated an out-clause that allows it to leave Arena in five years if its financial losses total more than $50 million. The city asked for the same five-year out-clause, but it was not part of the final agreement.

However, RSE did make some last-minute alterations to the deal.

Early Tuesday, RSE reached an agreement with Global Spectrum, the arena management arm of Comcast-Spectacor and the manager of nearby University of Phoenix Stadium, to assist in running Arena, including initiatives to increase the number of non-hockey dates at the venue.

RSE also said that if the team opts to exercise its out-clause and leave Glendale, it will reimburse the city for any losses beyond the $6 million arena fee it has budgeted annually.

"We've been looking for the right deal, the right transaction, the right ownership group, the right arrangements with the City, and it's been complicated," Commissioner Bettman said. "It's been difficult -- and it's finally all come together."

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