PHOENIX — The city of Glendale voted to cancel its arena lease agreement with the Arizona Coyotes in a meeting Wednesday, putting the franchise on the possible brink of relocation.
The council threw away the 15-year, $225 million deal it had made for Gila River Arena in 2013 in a 5-2 vote.
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers released the following statement after city council’s vote.
“We have worked for months to resolve the inequities in this contract. Only recently did we learn that the integrity of the process had been compromised. We can’t and won’t support a contract that favored the sports team over the interests of Glendale citizens. Tonight’s public comment was replete with warnings, litigation threats and the team assured the community that ‘it’s not going to happen’ when asked about the possibility to renegotiate. In a way, I am thankful that our citizens have seen the obstacles we have faced to make this agreement work.”
The city of Glendale issued a statement prior to the meeting stating that they were open to resolution, but at a price.
“It must be one that provides certainty and fairness to both parties, especially the taxpayers,” the statement said. “The council has agreed to stand for transparency and the highest standards of ethics for any future agreement with the Coyotes.”
The city has also received some backlash for going back on the 15-year agreement established just two years prior.
“This is a blatant attempt to renege on a valid contract that was negotiated fairly and in good faith and in compliance with all laws and procedures,” Nick Wood of the Law Offices of Snell & Wilmer, who serve as outside council for the Coyotes, said.
Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc issued a statement of his own following Wednesday’s Glendale City Council meeting.
“We are disappointed with the city’s decision to violate its obligations under the agreement that was entered into and duly approved only two years ago. We will exhaust any and all legal remedies against the city of Glendale for this blatant violation of its contractual obligations to us.”
The Associated Press reported this cancellation stemmed from the Glendale City Council being concerned that IceArizona had been using the $15 million the city pays annually to pay down debt built up when the group bought the franchise, violating the lease agreement.
This news should come as no surprise for fans who have endured conflicts between the city and ownership ever since former owner Jerry Moyes drove the team into bankruptcy in 2009.
The Coyotes suffered through a tough year, being one of the worst teams in the NHL which has thrown them into near last in the league in attendance with an average of 13,345 fans per home game. With city officials already worried about the cost of running Gila River Arena, the dwindling ticket sales could have factored into their decision.