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GLENDALE, Ariz. – The city of Glendale issued a statement Wednesday saying it would be open to renegotiating an arena lease deal with the Arizona Coyotes, hours before the City Council was scheduled to vote on cancelling the existing deal.
"The City Council has scheduled a discussion and possible vote regarding Glendale's contract with the Arizona Coyotes," the statement said. "Discussions and negotiations regarding the contract have been ongoing for months. Specifically, the City is open to a resolution but it must be one that provides certainty and fairness to both parties, especially the taxpayers. The Council has agreed to stand for transparency and the highest standards of ethics for any future agreement with the Coyotes."
IceArizona, which co-owns the Coyotes, signed a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement for Gila River Arena with Glendale in 2013, seemingly ending a long-running saga that included bankruptcy and the team being operated by the NHL.
That changed last week when some council members raised concerns about the deal, prompting Coyotes co-owners Andrew Barroway and Anthony LeBlanc to meet with Glendale officials on Monday.
On Tuesday, LeBlanc was adamant that there was no breach of contract in the lease deal and was surprised later that night when Glendale called for the special meeting to vote on ending it.
The agenda for Wednesday night's meeting cited an Arizona statute that allows an agency to cancel a contract if an employee directly involved with the agreement becomes an employee and agent to the other party in the contract.
Former Glendale city attorney Craig Tindall stepped down from his job in 2013 and was hired as the Coyotes general counsel later that year, a job he still holds.
Before the vote could take place, Glendale tried to make a pre-emptive move by saying it was open to reworking the deal, an action the Coyotes did not take well.
"There have been no negotiations whatsoever, in fact they wish there were and that's what this latest effort is all about, to try and force us to renegotiate a 15-year lease that was negotiated in good faith, less than 2 years into the term," LeBlanc said in a statement. "We have no intention of doing anything in light of the provocative acts of the city."
The Coyotes have seemingly been in limbo since former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009.
The franchise was operated by the NHL for four years while several potential owners came forward and fell back, sparking constant speculation that the team would be relocated.
The Coyotes seem to gain some stable ground in 2013, when IceArizona, led by LeBlanc and George Gosbee, purchased the team from the NHL. The group negotiated the deal for the arena, then known as Jobing.com Arena, with Glendale later that year and worked out a nine-year naming-rights deal with Gila River Casinos in 2014.
The franchise seemed to gain a stronger financial foothold last year, when Barroway, a successful hedge fund manager from Philadelphia, purchased a 51 percent stake in the team.
Still, the franchise continued to be hit with relocation speculation and last week some council members raised concerns that IceArizona was using money earmarked for operating the arena to pay down the debt incurred from purchasing the team.
LeBlanc believed those concerns were a non-issue, particularly since the team no longer uses the same lender, but the Coyotes and the NHL were caught off-guard after Glendale called for a vote to dissolve the arena deal altogether.
"We have been advised by the Coyotes that the City of Glendale's contentions are without merit and we fully expect the Coyotes to continue to play at the Gila River Arena and for the City to continue to honor its obligations to the Coyotes," the NHL said in a statement Wednesday. "After everything that has transpired, it is extremely disappointing that the City of Glendale would do anything that might damage the Club."