The Curious Case (and Unending Questions) of Kansas City Hockey

"This man just got through talking about what the f--- he ain't
More on this to come, obviously – the city of Glendale wants to lease their own city hall!!!, and Bettman has (supposedly) set a date – but you can be sure that the Coyotes won't end up in Kansas City.  Nope.  Not no way, not no how.  Or they could.  Who knows.  Who knows because Mayor Sly James diverts the truth on the whole issue, for some reason.  As definite as he is in his responses, he also leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  He's like a Pandora's box of dubiousness, always seemingly covering for someone or attempting to save face.  All just to convince someone – anyone – the Coyotes should not come to Kansas City.

Let me point out that James isn't necessarily wrong for doing this, nor refusing to bring the Coyotes to KC a bad idea.  It's an idea.  If the city doesn't want to do it – and if there is no ownership in place – then it does not happen.  Ipso facto.

As you may know, James claims Kansas City and the Sprint Center are not in the running to acquire the Coyotes should the NHL finally put the city of Glendale out of its misery and end their long financial nightmare.  Sly James just spoke to the Kansas City Star on the topic, because these interviews have become an annual tradition so why not.

He says in the KC Star June 20th:
“Several months back, even before that, we put out some feelers and talked to some people we trusted who knew what the situation was … the availability, the costs …” James told The Star on Thursday, “and the basic information was (the Coyotes) need a lot of money from the city in one form or the other. They said, it’s not a great deal for you, like you might hope.
“The question was, ‘What would it take?’ The answer was, ‘A whole hell of a lot. It might take you from a (profit) to a negative.’ It wasn’t something recommended to be done.”

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Okay, that's fine, I'll bite.  It's going to be a financial disaster...except maybe not.  The franchise is a financial disaster right now.  By moving, it seemingly avoids being a financial disaster.

It is, and forever will be, a financial disaster for the city of Glendale, who had the owner of their hockey team go bankrupt while running the team – thus sending the organization into bankruptcy.  That left the city to own and operate Arena at all expense to them, because the NHL had to take over the assets of the franchise.  The NHL, in its cunning ways, even had Glendale paying off part of the yearly debt of the franchise.  Over the four year span the organization went through a period of continued financial loss, mostly due to its instability and location within the Phoenix-area, and the city felt the pinch through ticket sales, paying the NHL part of the team's debts, and other lost television and marketing revenue (again, because of the instability – not because there are "no hockey fans in Arizona.").  This has continued for four plus years because no one is able to own the team under the NHL's conditions because they are a) keep the team in Glendale and b) since the team is in Glendale, the city must give that owner a sweetheart deal to keep it there i.e. literally PAY THE OWNER TO RUN THE TEAM IN JOBING.COM ARENA just so the ownership can turn a profit.  Without profit, no one wants to own the team.  Chicken and the egg, except the egg is the city of Glendale leasing out their city hall, taxing out the ass, and diverting what's left of their budget.

The tl:dr to that is the Coyotes (and any potential owner) need a lot of money from the city of Glendale, not necessarily from Kansas City...or Seattle...or Vegas...etc. because those cities don't owe the NHL.

The question here is what money do the Coyotes need from another city?  What is that money doing?  Getting them out of Glendale jail?  Moving costs?  Perhaps I don't understand the deal Kansas City has with AEG for the Sprint Center well enough to ably process what part the city has in owning a franchise.  Yes, it stands to gain or lose financially, but what is the difference between a deal with the Coyotes in 2013 and a deal with the Penguins in 2007?  If memory serves me correctly, AEG was willing to give the Pittsburgh Penguins free rent at Sprint when the team mulled relocation.  That's basically what Glendale has to offer to keep the Coyotes in town – plus several million dollars more, again, just so the team can turn a profit.  Is that what Kansas City would run into, having to eat a share of the rent costs of the arena along with AEG or an AEG approved ownership group?  Really, no one knows, and these "some people" James talked to could be anyone.  They could be your neighbor, your boss, that guy at the grocery store that bought the last bottle of Billy's BBQ sauce.  There is absolutely no reason, though, for these people to go by the nom de guerre of "some people."  Who said it?  Did AEG say that?  Was there a focus group?  With these simple fill-in-the-blanks, Sly, I wouldn't have to blog about how I think you are full of shit, were fed some shit, or a little from Column A and B.  Glendale is losing money on the Coyotes because it's turned into the bad investment for the city, not an owner.  Kansas City does not own the Coyotes, nor would they under the agreement that AEG owns any NBA or NHL franchises at Sprint.  Thus, Sly James, we require more information from you.

That point, for all intents and purpose, is what's at issue.  What does Sly gain from not disclosing these people?  Just tell us who you talked to and what they said.  If your neighbor made up a chart and Power Point presentation that said the city would lose money by acquiring the Coyotes, then fine.  We know the qualified source to direct our questions.


What else...?  Oh yes.

James goes on to say (bold mine):
“We were told, you should continue to look for a team, you’re in a good enough situation, where you have an arena that is working,” James said. “It’s not like we’re desperate or have an arena that is dark and not making money. You don’t have to jump at a deal just because something is out there.”According to Pollstar Magazine’s annual report, Sprint Center was the sixth-busiest arena in the United States in 2012 and No. 22 in the world. Even without an anchor tenant, Sprint Center provided $1.85 million to the city in 2012 through its profit-sharing agreement.
 This is true, and so financially responsible of him.  At issue are the promises made when the Arena opened.  Those promises are seven years and counting.  People get impatient.  And Sprint's not going to be around forever.

Kemper Arena lived to be about thirty before it was absolutely not profitable anymore.  If Kansas City acquires a team TODAY, they could have a lease at Sprint similar to the Chiefs and Royals at the Truman Sports Complex: 25 years (for a frame of reference, Glendale wants a 15-year lease on a nine year old arena).  Of course, any team may not sign that kind of a lease, but who knows how much longer Sprint will be around, or profitable.  The city has to understand people get impatient about a pro sports franchise moving into Sprint because its not "new" anymore.  There are new arenas going up across North America that can attract a franchise – or owner – better than Kansas City can (Seattle, Quebec City, etc.).  Technically before Sprint, Kansas City had an available arena since 1976.  The window closes a little everyday.

But, we're being too nice to Mayor Sly.  Here's where he tells a blatant lie (bold mine, again):
Of course, the other part of the equation to bring a team to Kansas City is identifying ownership. Both the new Phoenix group and prospective Seattle group are from out of the area and if AEG — which operates the Sprint Center — has an ownership group waiting in the wings for Kansas City, it is not saying.
“I’m not aware of a group,” James said. “That was part of the early discussion, whether there was a group that could step up … my understanding was there was not a group.
My mistake.  He might have actually told the lie a year ago around this time:
"I'd say, if anything, we're closer on the hockey front than we are the basketball front.  There's a cohesive hockey interested group."
Later, Sly makes it clear on his Twitter account that "Nothing even close" to a deal exists but then WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?  Anyway, the point is who knows what we can believe.  There has probably never been a "cohesive hockey interested group," and that's fine, because Sly didn't necessarily mislead us, because he totally didn't say that (even though he did).  Again, he's not at fault.  We all are, for assuming that the minds behind downtown revitalization of the mid-2000s had a professional sports team in mind.

Personally, I'd love to have an NHL team in Kansas City.  But, honestly, I could give a shit less if I felt like the mayor or AEG would give us the actual financial risks of why we can't pursue the Coyotes, and quit acting like Sprint Center is some Mecca of entertainment that's evolved past the need to host the competitive gladiator events of the dirty proletariat.  Madison Square Garden and Staples Center are Meccas of entertainment, and they do just fine hosting multiple professional sports teams plus events.  The Sprint Center is a nice arena in the middle of America with a good event booker.  That's it.  But what happens when Sprint Center gets older, and can't support those great musical acts?  What happens when we are back where we started, when those acts bypassed KC to go to Omaha, and St. Louis, and OKC, and Des Moines?  Where is the staying power for Sprint?  Does the downtown revitalization stall in five years when Sprint is twelve years old and not considered "modern" anymore.  Then what?

Oh, and to his credit James does get something unequivocally right in that article: Kansas City does not have a potential hockey ownership group.  At all.  None.  And that's all he really needed to say anyway.

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