GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes have spent the past four years living with the financial restraints of being run by the NHL, making the best of the limited resources before them.
After Tuesday night’s Glendale City Council vote in favor of an arena lease agreement with a prospective team owner, the Coyotes will finally be on even financial footing with the rest of the league.
“The only way you can win long-term is to have a strong ownership,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. “Now that we have an ownership in place, it gives us a chance, gives us a little more of a chance to show that we know what we’re doing.”
The Coyotes had been searching for an owner since Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009. After numerous false starts with potential owners and constant rumors of relocation, the Coyotes found a perfect suitor in Renaissance Sports and Entertainment.
RSE, headed by George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc and Daryl Jones, reached an agreement to buy the team in May, a deal contingent upon reaching a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena with the city of Glendale.
After a month of contentious negotiations that went through dramatic fluctuations over the final week, the lease agreement went to a vote Tuesday night with the outcome still very much in doubt.
Hundreds of Coyotes fans and Glendale residents packed the council chambers and an overflow crowd sat downstairs in the employee lounge watching on closed-circuit TV.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly attended the meeting, receiving a rare standing ovation as they entered the chambers. Coyotes COO Mike Nealy, Maloney and player Derek Morris also were there.
After some tense debate and a few concessions on both sides, the 15-year, $225 million lease agreement was approved by a vote of 4-3, setting off an enthusiastic round of thumbs-ups from the crowd in the chambers — Mayor Jerry Weiers said clapping and cheering was not allowed — and a huge sigh of relief from the Coyotes, their prospective new owners and their fans.
RSE has until Aug. 5 to complete its arena deal with Glendale and purchase the team, which would be renamed the Arizona Coyotes sometime after next season, from the NHL.
“There have been ups and downs over the four years and the last four days, but we have stuck with it because we believe in hockey in this area,” Leblanc said.