Glendale City Council approves lease, opens door for sale of Coyotes

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com
Coyotes fans await the vote in Glendale. (@smunshi)

On Tuesday night in front of a chamber full of hopeful Coyotes fans -- and some opponents -- the Glendale City Council voted on the proposed $320 million lease with potential Coyotes owner Greg Jamison, approving the measure.

What that means is that we might finally be nearing the end of a three-year journey from bankruptcy to the sale of the franchise from the NHL to Jamison, the former CEO of the San Jose Sharks. Now it's just a matter of Jamison -- who was in attendance Tuesday -- getting on the move with finalizing the sale and keeping the Coyotes in Glendale for the next 20 years.

He doesn't plan on wasting any time. With the lease issue squared away, Jamison is going to turn his attention to getting the sale finished as soon as possible.

For a while the big concern was whether Jamison even had the funding to purchase the team or not but according to ESPN.com's Scott Burnside, the financing is already in place. Jamison did tell the council that he shouldn't need too much longer to close the deal.

It better only take that long because according to the procedures, Jamison has until Jan. 31 to get a deal done otherwise the lease will be up to a vote again. That wouldn't be good for him.

If that's true then all that would seem to separate the Coyotes from being Jamison's and staying in the desert for the next two decades -- at least -- is approval from the Board of Governors.

Tuesday night's vote was definitely no shoo-in for approval. Of the six members on the panel, five were pretty open on their stance -- three in favor, two against. The writer of the amended lease didn't even think the city should pass it. A split vote would have resulted in a rejection, it had to be approved by a majority. Obviously the swing vote went in favor of the lease, opening the door for Jamison to buy the team.

Not everybody was happy about it, particularly outgoing mayor Elaine Scruggs, a one-time supporter of the deal. She had some strong words after the votes were cast.

"I choose to support people in other types of uniforms," Scruggs said. "Police uniforms, fire uniforms, not Coyotes uniforms."

The opposition to the lease surrounded the city paying money to keep the team in town while it is facing cuts to other parts of the budget -- as the Arizona Republic's Sonu Munshi detailed. Regardless of if the Coyotes stay or if they go, cuts are going to have to be made and the argument for the lease was that with or without the team (it's just a matter of how many will be needed), the arena still had to be paid for. Now they will at least get some return on their money.

Getting a deal done now was critical to the franchise staying put. In January new council members and a new mayor will take office and they have made it clear they don't feel favorably toward the Coyotes. It's unlikely a lease, especially this one, would have been pushed through.

We have learned time and time again in this story not to get ahead of ourselves, but this is a huge hurdle that needed to be cleared. Now it's pretty much just a matter of Jamison closing the finances, it's hard to believe the Board of Governors wouldn't approve of the NHL (and the other 29 owners by proxy) ridding itself of paying for the money-losing franchise.

For the hockey hopefuls in Quebec City, Seattle and other cities, it might be time to set your sights on another avenue to get a hockey team because the end appears to be within range.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @StubitsCBS on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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