Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
GLENDALE, Arizona – Even while the Phoenix Coyotes were in the process of dropping a 2-1 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks at Jobing.com Arena on Sunday night, a potentially momentous action was making headlines off the ice.
Matthew Hulsizer, the Chicago businessman who has been attempting to buy the Coyotes from the NHL since the beginning of the season, announced Sunday that he had made some modifications to his agreement with the city of Glendale in order to expedite the sale of the team. Instead of just being handed a blank check by the city for $100 million before the deal could happen, Hulsizer guaranteed that the city will make back that money, regardless of whether or not parking lot revenues around the arena are enough to cover it.
The $100 million in bonds that needed to be issued by Glendale to complete the sale of the team were a hot-button issue that had drawn fire from many locations, most notably the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank that threatened to sue the city if they completed the deal as it was constructed. Their issue with the deal was that it violated the state of Arizona’s “Gift Clause” in the state constitution, which prohibits municipalities from helping private businesses without any guarantee of getting that money back.
The city felt throughout this ordeal that the revenues generated from charging for parking (which the team currently does not do) and potentially selling advertising and naming rights within those parking areas, but the Institute kept pointing to several studies suggesting that the figure would be below $100 million. On the low end of the spectrum, studies commissioned by the city said that they could expect to make between $60-80 million in revenues, and that was the crux of the Institute’s argument.
Under the new arrangement, Hulsizer would reimburse Glendale the $25 million that it had placed in an escrow account to cover the team’s losses while under NHL ownership. In addition, Hulsizer will also guarantee that even if the city does not make $100 million in parking lot revenues over the next five years, he will pay the rest of the amount to the city from his own pocket. This would satisfy the Goldwater group’s issues with the deal, according to Hulsizer, and according to various reports the bonds might be sold and the deal finalized within a matter of days.
There have been plenty of false starts and roadblocks throughout this entire ordeal, but with the issues confronting the deal seemingly dealt with, the sale of the Coyotes to Mr. Hulsizer might finally be nearing completion, and the NHL may finally be able to close this chapter of its history with a notch of success added to its belt.