GLENDALE, Ariz. – Just like most games of the Stanley Cup Final so far, the city council here is headed to overtime to see whether it can reach a deal to keep the Phoenix Coyotes.
But the fact talks will now continue beyond Friday — which one local columnist had described as “D-Day” for the future of the Coyotes — could signal a blow to Seattle’s hopes the club might relocate there.
An executive session of the Glendale City Council met Friday morning and a spokeswoman emerged just after noon to say talks would continue into early next week with prospective new owners of the National Hockey League club. The sides have been given until July 2 to formally approve an arena lease agreement, or the league has warned of a Plan B option that includes relocating the Coyotes to Seattle in time for next season.
City of Glendale spokeswoman Julie Watters said the council remains hopeful a tentative agreement can be reached early next week, given a public vetting and then voted on at a July 2 meeting in time to meet the NHL’s deadline.
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“This is not the type of decision that can be made in a couple of hours,’’ Watters said, adding she expects some type of announcement no later than Tuesday. “As you have all seen, this is taking hours and hours, with lots of questions and thoughts and ideas and comments being put together. So, again, we’re hoping early next week that we’re going to have some specific details that we can talk about.’’
That discussions are continuing into next week is an indication of movement behind the scenes toward reaching a deal. Had talks collapsed Friday — as some feared they might — the hope of reviving them in time to meet the NHL’s deadline would have been slim.
Some councilors favor giving any deal a weeklong public vetting before a final council vote, though bylaws require only a minimum of 72 hours. To have a one-week public discussion, and vote by July 2, details of a tentative lease agreement would have to be released by Tuesday.
The NHL has owned the Coyotes since they sought bankruptcy protection four years ago. The team’s current potential buyers, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, need to first reach a separate lease deal with the city to use municipally owned Jobing.com Arena — home of the Coyotes since 2003.
Renaissance is said to be seeking up to $15 million per year in revenue guarantees from the city. The city has budgeted for only $6 million, and the sides are seeking ways to bridge the gap.
If they can’t do it, the NHL has warned it could sell the team to New York hedge fund investors Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, who would move the Coyotes to Seattle. But the feasibility of such a move remains in question, given the Coyotes would have to play in a temporary facility — 11,000-seat KeyArena being the most likely choice — and hope a new arena could be built.
As of now, there are no plans for that, though a memorandum of understanding between the city and businessman Chris Hansen had been signed allowing for an arena project if Hansen can secure an NBA franchise. Officials say the memorandum could be modified to allow the project to proceed if an NHL team is landed, but the likelihood of getting it done before teams open camp in September is far from certain.
This was the second time in three days the seven-member council had met behind closed doors to try to resolve the arena lease impasse with the NHL’s deadline looming.
After a lengthy meeting Tuesday, councilor Gary Sherwood, a leading supporter of keeping the team in Glendale, expressed hope in a phone interview that things could be resolved this week. After Friday’s session, he said by phone: “I’m comfortable with the way negotiations are continuing. We’ve made positive movement. A few issues remain.’’
Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers would not comment. With the council potentially split, Weiers could be forced to cast the decisive vote.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org