Winnipeg waits on Glendale

Could the MTS Centre in Winnipeg become home to an NHL franchise in the near future? (FRED...

Could the MTS Centre in Winnipeg become home to an NHL franchise in the near future? (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters file photo)

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

The great standoff of 2011 has begun.

And we’re not talking about the NFL’s much talked about labour issues.

The Old West standoff of most interest to Winnipeggers is in an OK Corral located deep in the desert, where local politics is everyday news thousands of miles to the north in snowy Manitoba.

Here in Winnipeg we hang on every word coming from the two sides in this shootout — the mayor of Glendale and an independent government watchdog known as the Goldwater Institute.

Not so much because anyone really cares what they say or think, but because the prize they are fighting for is something we covet so deeply.

The Phoenix Coyotes, who were once known as the Winnipeg Jets, could conceivably fly back to Winnipeg in time for next season if the great standoff drags on long enough. Or at least, so goes the conventional thinking.

And at this point, it looks like it is going to drag on for quite some time.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs realizes it and realizes how damaging a protracted fight could be.

She held a press conference Thursday, where she urged the Goldwater Institute to stop blocking a deal to sell the Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer.

She said the independent government watchdog is “significantly hindering” the sale of the Coyotes — and the possibility of the team remaining in Glendale — by threatening to sue over its belief that Glendale’s plan to raise money to aid Hulsizer’s purchase is in violation of state law.

It all smacks of desperation.

Scruggs is the latest person involved in the deal to ask Goldwater to stand down. Hulsizer did the same thing on the weekend and the Arizona Republic has published two editorials urging Goldwater to step away for the good of the community.

But Goldwater has no intention of backing away — Goldwater Institute president and CEO Darcy Olsen said as much when she published an editorial of her own in the Republic Thursday — which leaves the entire deal in limbo.

In the article, Olsen points out that Glendale’s mounting debt is already triple the national median for cities of its size and it should not be involved in a bond sale which will be used to raise $100 million in order to buy back parking rights from Hulsizer. The institute contends the $100 million would be an illegal gift to Hulsizer to get him to buy the Coyotes from the NHL for $170 million.

“Our preliminary analysis suggests new parking fees at the arena will not be enough to repay the additional debt, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Any investor should be nervous about bonds to back a corporate subsidy that may be illegal,” Olsen writes. “We hope the city will do the right thing and avoid a lengthy and protracted lawsuit by coming into compliance with the law.”

Olsen also wrote a letter to Scruggs, parts of which were printed in the Phoenix Business Journal Thursday. She said the city’s plan to buy parking rights for Jobing.com Arena from Hulsizer is at the heart of the problem.

“The crux of the deal is the city obtaining parking rights in exchange for giving a payment of $100 million to the purchaser. We believe the city already owns the parking rights. We have examined all of the documents the city contends prove the opposite, and those documents fortify our conclusion. If the city owns the parking rights, then there is no consideration and the deal is unquestionably invalid,” Olsen wrote.

So far, the city’s bond sale has not gone well as a result of high interest rates and Goldwater’s threat of a lawsuit and reports have indicated if the sale to Hulsizer can’t be completed soon, the Coyotes could be forced to relocate.

Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman and his partners had a deal in place to buy the team and move it to Winnipeg last spring, before an agreement was reached to extend the stay in Arizona, and it’s believed it could be easily resurrected.

So Winnipeggers watch from afar and hope for a nice long standoff in the desert.

One which results in their long-lost team finally coming home.


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