The Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale have buried the hatchet and made up. For now.
Council votes 7-0 to approve amended two-year agreement with Coyotes. Done deal. Comments from Anthony LeBlanc, Mayor Weiers & story later.— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 24, 2015
All of the players said the right things. Coyotes' CEO Anthony LeBlanc reiterated his group's committment to the market, and to the the City Council. Councilmember Ian Hugh - one of the loudest proponents of cancelling the original contract - is now proclaiming that hockey in Glendale is "here to stay".
It's a remarkably different tune from the one both sides were singing just one month ago, when LeBlanc referred to the cancellation as "possibly the most shameful exhibition of government I have ever witnessed", while Vice Mayor Hugh was busy parroting anti-Coyotes talking points to pundits up north whose interest in the Coyotes is not motivated by concern for Glendale taxpayers or the NHL, but rather devoted to the antiquated notion that only markets that "deserve" hockey should have a professional team.
So here we are again, with the team's future in Arizona no more certain than it was in 2013. Or 2011. Or 2009. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It would come as a genuine surprise if IceArizona was not at least exploring the possibility of a new arena, be it in Phoenix or with the Salt River Indian Community, or even in Seattle or Portland. Yes, those two are options as well.
But it's also possible that the team continues its turbulent relationship with Glendale for another few seasons, even after 2017 comes and goes. The City has the ability to look for a replacement arena manager after one year, and they probably will do so. They likely will come back disappointed.
It seems like a stretch to think that they're going to find a manager willing to give them a significantly better deal than the $6.5 million they will give the Coyotes, which actually is $6 million when you consider that the team pays $500k a year in "rent" to Glendale. And starting from zero events per year instead of a guaranteed 41 means a lot more work to do for anybody but IceArizona.
So the Glendale City Council strikes a victory that's more political than fiscal; the City's savings will amount at most to about $1-2 million per year now that supplemental revenue streams will not go their way. But on paper, it looks like the City saved $8.5 million. Come election season, paper is all that matters.
But through all of this, the fans are the ones that are left in the lurch. Once again, the team's medium to long-term future is up in the air. There are far more "ifs" than there are settled answers; "if" the team can negotiate a partnership with Phoenix and Robert Sarver's Suns, "if" the Coyotes can convince the Salt River Community to go for a pricey new arena, "if" the team can repair its relationship with a City Council that has demonstrated no hesitation to renege on deals when it suits them politically.
It's impossible to say what the landscape will look like in two years. Anybody that claims to know is blowing smoke. It's been hurdle after hurdle for IceArizona to get team back on track.
Perhaps this story ends in Phoenix. Perhaps in Glendale. Perhaps in Seattle. But one thing we do know for sure: the story did not end today.