Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Has Glendale been paying the Phoenix Coyotes' arena lease?

After we heard National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman's express optimism for the Phoenix Coyotes' future during a January 31st interview on FOX Sports Arizona, we have an interesting development that might have been uncovered as to how dire the financial situation has gotten for the franchise.

KPNX-TV in Phoenix reported yesterday that the neighboring city of Glendale has allowed the team to play in Arena rent free since last July.

Given the team's struggles and now the current economic downturn locally, statewide and across the country, it is the last thing belt-tightened taxpayers want to hear. That would be a local government bailing out a professional sports franchise with their money.

But Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs told KPNX-TV reporter Brahm Resnik that is not the case.

"I know who is going to pay the Coyotes' rent," Scruggs said. "The taxpayers will not lose any money."

According to KPNX-TV's research staff, Glendale's city records of past payments show the bailout may be worth as much as $4 million. As been reported by the media over the past two months, the NHL has taken over the financial responsibilities of the team's operations.

Scruggs also would not publicly state whether the bailout money has been deposited in her city's coffers. KPNX-TV reports it has not been made.

But what may already upset Glendale residents, members of the city council were taken by surprise with the television station informing them of this development.

"Absolutely I should have been told," said 17-year veteran city councilman Phil Lieberman. "They're using that money for their operating money when it should've been paid to the city of Glendale."

Lieberman's legitimate questions come as Glendale made a 10% cut to close a multi-million budget gap.

Scruggs pointed out in this news report it was up to city manager Ed Beasley as to whether or not the city council were to be told about the lease payments. Beasley was not available to comment on this story.

The Coyotes' lease payments amounted to $4.3 million in 2007, the last full year in which team made them for all 12 months of a calendar year. City documents show payments were up-to-date through July 2008.

The arena rent is a major part of Glendale's $9 million in annual debt payments on money they borrowed to build Arena. Since the NHL has the intentions to rescue the Coyotes from any possible bankruptcy with financial assistance, restructuring the arena lease is viewed as vital to luring new investors into buying the professional sports franchise. The team said last week that several investors have expressed interest.

Another part of what has hurt the team financially has been the fact the team pays the city of Glendale for the use of parking lots around the arena for its patrons. Therefore, the Coyotes don't make money from the parking fees. When Arena opened in December 2003, such parking fees were expected to generate about $18.7 million in revenue. But to date, only about $7.75 million has been earned by this arrangement.

The Phoenix Coyotes have reportedly lost at least $200 million since moving to Glendale in December 2003. While Lieberman is not happy with these bailout funds, he express his desire to help the franchise stay in the Valley of the Sun. Arena is located 13 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

"We have to help them in some way make sure they stay there," Lieberman said.

Resnik stated in his report that the Glendale City Council will end up voting on a final agreement the Coyotes make with the city if and when that happens in the weeks to months ahead.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rangers to televise two games on WPIX-TV

In a news release posted yesterday on the New York Rangers' official web site, the National Hockey League team announced they will air two MSG Network-produced games on free over-the-air television for the second straight season. This season's slate features one on February 28th against the Colorado Avalanche and the other on March 21st against the Buffalo Sabres on WPIX-TV. Both games will be also be available in high definition.

"We are proud to partner with PIX 11 to bring our award winning coverage of the Knicks and Rangers to their viewers," MSG Networks executive vice president and general manager Dan Ronayne stated in the news release. "This is a great opportunity to find a new audience and promote the teams as well as our other MSG programming."

Last season, two Rangers games were shown locally on WWOR-TV. It was the first time since April 1, 1989 in Pittsburgh that any particular Rangers game was not aired exclusively on cable.

"The Knicks and the Rangers, like WPIX, have a long and rich history with New York and we are excited about our partnership with MSG and the opportunity to expand our programming for New York sports fans," WPIX-TV president and general Manager Betty Ellen Berlamino said.

Both WPIX-TV (the flagship station of The CW Television Network) and MSG Network have been airing promos this week to notify viewers of this broadcast schedule update. Would you like to see any examples? See the two video clips below with a personal word of thanks to NYRParis30 for providing us with the preview.

video courtesy: MSG Network and WPIX-TV

video courtesy: MSG Network, WPIX-TV and NYRParis30

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gary Bettman gives "State of Phoenix Coyotes Address"

The mention of this exclusive interview was first made public during the Phoenix Coyotes' January 31st game telecast on KAZT-TV when the Buffalo Sabres paid a visit to Arena. Many Coyotes fans took note and circled last night's date on the calendar.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman conducted a conference call with Coyotes television play-by-play announcer Dave Strader and color analyst Darren Pang on FOX Sports Arizona to basically set the record straight. Rampant speculation over the past two months had suggested the franchise has been in such dire financial distress that it could relocate for the second time in its history or simply be contracted from the league.

During last night's first intermission interview of the Coyotes' 5-4 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Bettman assured the fans that negotiations are ongoing to restructure the current arena lease, there are interested investors to become part of a major part of ownership and that an infusion of capital will help get the franchise through its current economic challenges.

"There's been a tremendous amount of speculation and commentary about the state of the Coyotes and most of it has been terribly unfair to the Coyotes, to the players and to the fans," Bettman told Strader and Pang. "Obviously, there are issues we're working on — getting some capital infusion for the club... possibly some new partners for Jerry Moyes or even a possible sale."

Bettman would not reveal any names of potential new investors, but Patricia Best in today's edition of The Globe and Mail in Toronto had already suggested Calgary businessman W. Brett Wilson may be interested, or at least he's being coy about it. It is not certain of whether or not Coyotes Majority Investor Jerry Moyes would retain a minor stake in the franchise or sell altogether.

While much of the talk of whether or not the Coyotes would survive even to the end of this season given how the team has been in the red for much of their existence in Phoenix, Bettman had some choice words for the skeptics.

"The reports of the franchise's demise are just ridiculous," Bettman added. "Jerry Moyes has been committed to Glendale and committed to the Coyotes. All of this blanket characterization of 'hockey doesn't work in the Sun Belt' is just hogwash. I think the Coyotes have a bright future on the ice."

See the video clip below for the entire interview. I plan to post a new blog entry that will have a more in-depth look at the state of the Phoenix Coyotes and provide an overview of the last few months in the coming days.

video courtesy: FOX Sports Arizona