The Phoenix Coyotes took a big step toward stability Tuesday night when the Glendale City Council ratified an arena lease agreement with a prospective owner of the franchise.
After making a few alterations, the council voted 4-3 in favor on a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement with Renaissance Sports & Entertainment during a special session.
The vote clears the way for RSE to purchase the Coyotes from the NHL, which has been running the team the past four years.
A no vote likely would have meant relocation for the team in the upcoming season, possibly to Seattle. Quebec City and Kansas City, Mo., also were relocation possibilities.
The decision had been in doubt as RSE and the city went through tense negotiations over the past few weeks.
RSE may have swung the vote in its favor earlier in the day when it announced a partnership with Global Spectrum, which owns the
Philadelphia Flyers, to help manage Jobing.com Arena.
RSE must finalize its lease agreement with Glendale and its purchase of the team by Aug. 5.
The meeting attracted hundreds of Coyotes fans and Glendale residents, who showed their pleasure or displeasure in the chambers by putting their thumbs up and down. An overflow crowd downstairs in the employee lounge also cheered and booed at a closed-circuit monitor.
The meeting also was attended by Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and player Derek Morris, along with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who received a rare standing ovation as they entered the chambers.
RSE reached a deal to buy the Coyotes from the NHL last month and spent several weeks negotiating with Glendale for an arena lease deal.
After weeks of back and forth, RSE accepted numerous revisions to an initial draft of the lease agreement, including a $50,000 payment to the city if the Coyotes play less than 41 games, but stood firm on an out clause for the city.
The city had asked for the clause to match a provision that allows RSE to relocate the team after five years or if it accrues $50 million in losses. Nick Wood, an attorney representing RSE, said the out clause was out of the question, but made a concession on the deal, offering to pay the city any losses in revenue above $6 million should the team be relocated.
After a long debate, the council agreed to vote on an amended lease agreement without the clause.
The city also was concerned about a $15 million fee to manage Jobing.com Arena.
Glendale budgeted $6 million to operate the arena, but RSE projected between $8.5 million and $11 million in revenue from arena naming rights, parking, rent, ticket surcharges and other streams to make up the difference.
RSE added a provision in the deal that called for it to pay the difference if revenues don’t cover the $6 million the city has budgeted to run the arena.
After a council meeting that lasted about four hours, the council voted in favor of the deal despite reservations from some members.
Vincent Lecavalier kicked off the annual free agent signing period Tuesday, three days before it officially begins, by signing a multiyear contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Lecavalier was able to shop around early because he was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Potential free agents such as forward Mike Ribeiro, who appears to have passed on re-signing with Washington, or other players who weren’t welcomed back will hit the market Wednesday for the first of a two-day interview period before any deals can be signed.