Getty Images/Christian Peterson
By: Trevor Williams, Sports Radio KJR
Is tonight the night a deal will have to be officially done in Glendale for the Phoenix Coyotes to stay put? Craig Morgan, of Fox Sports Arizona says, “It sure feels like it.”
Renaissance Sports and Entertainment and their new partner, Global Spectrum, have hockey fans in and around Phoenix reeling. Global Spectrum (who also manages neighboring University of Phoenix Stadium) is thought by some to be the saving grace in the Coyote’s bid to remain in Glendale for the 2013-14 NHL season. This bid of course comes in the form of a lease agreement between the city of Glendale and Global Spectrum and Renaissance Sports.
According to Morgan, “Global Spectrum is the industry leader in arena management.” With the partnership of Global Spectrum, Glendale might feel as though the chance for profitability at Jobing.com Arena just increased. Increased profitability would certainly make an arena deal more attractive to the Glendale City Council, however, it’s still unclear if Global Spectrum’s involvement will be enough to keep the Coyotes in the desert.
While new information about the impending vote in Glendale has surfaced over the past few days, uncertainty still seems to be the word of the day. Key changes in the arena proposal, such as the addition of an out clause for the city, will harm Glendale’s chance of keeping an NHL franchise. However, some of these potential barriers could be reportedly removed at tonight’s city council meeting just before council members vote on the proposed deal. Morgan explained that it’s hard to speculate at this point as to what might happen in the next ten to twelve hours. He has no way of knowing other political moves council members could be considering.
Even while the next few hours could resemble a rollercoaster, Morgan said, “There have been so many twists and turns, all of us, I think, who have been around this for the last four years are hoping for some closure tonight.”
“Closure,” could favor hockey fans from different areas of the country though, as fans in Houston and Seattle are holding their breath hoping that a hockey team could be headed to their city.
According to Morgan, the crucial question facing the city of Glendale tonight is, “Is the city of Glendale better off with or without the Coyotes?” The answer to this question will likely decide if fans in Houston, Seattle or Phoenix will be watching local NHL hockey next season.
Currently, the eyes of the previously mentioned cities, along with those of NHL fans everywhere, are trained on Glendale. The city’s implementation of an out clause in their counter proposal to Renaissance Sports last Friday seems to be the biggest issue currently on hand. If that out clause is not amended, Morgan says, “The vote tonight will be an empty exercise.”
No other NHL city currently has an out clause in their arena deal, so the NHL would not be likely to approve of Glendale’s plan if it was structured as is. That becomes a meaningless point anyways because Renaissance Sports' lenders won't allow an out clause in their deal. Morgan reported that tonight there is, “no way to get the deal done with the out clause.” Also, he said if a deal is not done tonight, “I don’t know that Renaissance Sports and Entertainment would have the chops to stick with this thing beyond today.”
When asked if hockey could work in Phoenix Morgan said, “I don’t think we know the answer yet.” He says there, “were a lot of factors working against the organization.” These factors include poor ownership, coaching, and on-ice performance which all could have negatively impacted profits at Jobing.com Arena.
Also fueling some of the issues surrounding attendance and fan support in Phoenix, is the location of Jobing.com Arena. Morgan speculated that, “The location is the number one hindrance.” However, the issue fans have with traveling out of Phoenix (to Glendale) for games could be fixed by more stable ownership and better on-ice performance.
This does leave possible good news for hockey fans in Phoenix. Ownership is stabilizing and on ice-performance already seems to be improving for the Coyotes, who missed the 2013 NHL Playoffs by just four points and are led by a highly regarded coach, Dave Tippett.
As we approach what could be the final hours of a complex process, hockey fans know this. If a deal is not done tonight, the NHL said it will begin working on a Plan B immediately. Options are reported to be “numerous,” however Morgan said, “It’s hard to read what Plan B is.”
We also know the out clause must be amended by the Glendale City Council if an arena deal is to be made possible. Whether Glendale’s Mayor put the out clause in the deal to intentionally make the process difficult for Renaissance is unknown, but it is definitely being pushed by someone inside the council (we know this because the clause was re-introduced in negotiations after being thrown out last week).
As for the things we don’t know… Is Gary Bettman’s presence a sign of a positive outcome for hockey fans in Phoenix? Will a final deal really have to be done tonight? And of course, the biggest question on the minds of hockey fans in Houston and Seattle… If the NHL does enact a “Plan B,” who will get the Phoenix Coyotes?
As for now, it is likely Coyote fans will likely be howling in Glendale. However, whether the howls will be filled with elation or sorrow remains to be seen. At this point all we can do is speculate. Rightfully, Morgan said, “We will just have to let it play out tonight and fortunately I think it finally will play out tonight.”