Arizona Court Requires Glendale to Reveal Giveaways to Hockey Team

Published August 31, 2009

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ruled the City of Glendale, Arizona must produce public records related to the negotiations over millions of dollars of concessions for the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey team.

The ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based think tank, lets taxpayers see what incentives their elected officials are offering to a potential buyer of the team.

Judge Edward Burke’s July ruling orders the City of Glendale to:

* Immediately produce all the records that are not confidential.

* Produce records of negotiations with everyone who submits a bid to buy the team and keep it in Glendale, “including but not limited to, any such documentation which evidences concessions made and incentives proposed to be given by the City to a proposed new owner of the Team.” The city must produce records of negotiations with Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox and the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls, who was the only bidder who came forward to keep the team in Glendale.

* Produce to the judge any records it believes are confidential so the judge can decide whether those records must be made public.

* Make the requested records available on an ongoing basis as new records are created.

“This ruling lets taxpayers finally see what incentives their elected officials are offering to a potential buyer of the team. And since taxpayers will pick up the tab, that’s only fair,” said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute.

Glendale officials already have gambled $180 million on the team by building a state-of-the-art hockey arena at no cost to the Coyotes. Glendale has leased the Arena to the team since 2003. The Coyotes this season ducked at least eight months’ rent because of poor attendance and revenues, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

PSE Sports & Entertainment has offered to buy the team and move it to Canada, which would leave Glendale stranded along with 40 other creditors who will be owed nearly $97.5 million even after the team’s sale.

Documents confirm city officials have been negotiating with Reinsdorf for concessions and/or subsidies of more than $20 million annually.

([email protected]) is an attorney at the Goldwater Institute.