Glendale City Council Voting Tonight Whether to Shell Out Nearly $200 Million to Keep Phoenix Coyotes In Town

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It's a simple yes or no.

Will the Glendale City Council vote to shell out nearly $200 million in a deal aimed at keeping the Coyotes in town for at least 30 years?

But there is nothing simple about the decision facing elected officials in the West Valley city that has yearned to build its reputation as a sports and entertainment hot spot.

The deal involves Glendale giving $100 million to Matthew Hulsizer, a Chicago businessman poised to buy the Phoenix Coyotes from the National Hockey League.

And, the Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders reports that "Glendale would pay Hulsizer $97 million over the next 5 1/2 years to manage the arena, schedule concerts and other non-hockey events."

The team previously picked up the cost of managing the ice palace, but that was before the entire puck-ing empire started to crumble in Glendale.

If Glendale votes no, the team could relocate and leave vacant the $180 million hockey arena that Glendale paid to build in 2003. Vacant or not, Glendale is on the hook to repay that 30-year arena debt.

City officials bemoan that the economic loss would be devastating if the Coyotes abandoned the Jobing.com Arena, the anchor tenant at Westgate City Center.

Agenda documents for tonight's 7 p.m. council meeting at Glendale City Hall cite a 2008 study that gives the Coyotes and the Jobing.com Arena credit for creating 750 jobs that generate $20 million in wages in Maricopa County and $4.5 million worth of indirect business taxes for Glendale, Maricopa County and Arizona.

Losing more than 40 major events, that is hockey games, per year at the arena would be a punch-in-the-gut to bars, restaurants and retail shops that also call Westgate home.

And that would only further jam up Glendale, which counts on sales tax revenues those businesses generate to pay off the debt it has amassed in trying to build its sports empire.

Now, if they say yes to the $200-million giveaway, they may keep the team in town but are only piling on to that massive debt.

And as their initial deal with the team and previous team owners has proven, there are no guarantees that the $200 million will be enough.

City officials also may face a legal challenge from the Goldwater Institute over the conservative think-tank's belief that the deal Glendale has cooked up violates state laws that prohibit government subsidies to private entities.

That, of course, means that the city will rack up untold legal fees to defend their deal.

Financial woes have dogged Glendale and the team, which has lost a steady stream of revenue for its past owners. But whatever deals are forged, none address the underlying problem of an anemic fan base.

Critics have said that hockey just doesn't work in the desert, and there just aren't enough fans to keep the team afloat over the long haul.

The Coyotes have consistently drawn the smallest game crowds over the years. While attendance peaked in the 2003-04 season (when Glendale opened its brand new arena), the team ranked dead last for the past two seasons, according to espn.com.

Perhaps Glendale, in its quest to build a sports and entertainment mecca that would garner notoriety and fortunes, did it a little bit backward.

Just ask Tony Montana. He would tell them that in this industry, you gotta get the right sport first. Then when you get the right sport, you get the fans. Then when you get the fans, then you get the money.

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