Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tuesday vote will tell tale for 'Yotes

$197-M deal awaits Glendale council OK

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PHOENIX -- Glendale city council has scheduled a vote for Tuesday on a new 30-year lease for the Phoenix Coyotes, a long-awaited move that could clear the way for the NHL to sell the team to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer.

The city would take on up to US$197 million in obligations over the next six years under terms of the proposed lease, made public as part of the council meeting agenda posted Friday.

The NHL purchased the Coyotes in U.S. Bankruptcy Court a year ago with the stated intention of selling it to someone who would keep it in Glendale. If no such buyer were found, the franchise would leave the state.

Hulsizer met with the executive committee of the NHL board of governors this week and came away with the group's unanimous endorsement of his purchase of the team.

NHL officials have said all along that a new lease agreement with Glendale would be a requirement for any new owner of the hockey team.

The proposed lease is substantially different than tentative details made public earlier, with no special taxing district to be formed.

The city, which built Jobing.com Arena specifically for the Coyotes, is asking the city council to authorize sale of up to $125 million in municipal bonds to facilitate the lease's terms.

The city is to purchase arena parking rights from the team for $100 million and pay $97 million over the next six years as a fee to the Hulsizer group to manage the arena.

The payments would be $10 million in the first partial fiscal year, $20 million each of the next two years, $17 million in the fourth year and $15 million in each of the fifth and sixth years.

Five years after the lease takes effect, Hulsizer would have the option of purchasing the arena.

The city said the lease is needed to protect its investment, with huge losses forecast if the team were to move. The lease, the city said, would "position Glendale to host the 2013 NHL All-Star Game."

Hulsizer, co-founder and chief executive officer of PEAK6 Investments, said after meeting with the NHL board on Monday that he is committed to a long-term investment that he knows will take years to break even.

The Coyotes never have turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. Glendale had pledged $25 million to the NHL to cover losses this season if a sale did not go through.

In May last year, then-owner Jerry Moyes took the Coyotes into bankruptcy, to the surprise of the NHL and Glendale, with a plan to sell the franchise to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie.

The plan was contingent on moving the team to Hamilton, over the vehement objections of the NHL. A bankruptcy judge eventually threw out Balsillie's bid and other potential buyers withdrew. That left the NHL as the only bidder.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2010 D6

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