Posts tagged ‘glendale’

Chickens Roosting in Glendale

Via the WSJ

Glendale, Ariz., is selling about $136 million in debt in the municipal-bond market this week, just days after Moody's Investors Service cut its bond rating because of the desert city's obligations to cover losses on a National Hockey League franchise.

In exchange for the NHL's promise to manage team operations and keep the team in Glendale until a new owner is found, the city agreed to compensate the league, the city's executive communications director, Julie Frisoni, said.

The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009, and that spring, the NHL became the owner of the team. In exchange for keeping the team, the city signed an agreement to absorb up to $25 million of the team's losses in both 2011 and 2012, in anticipation of finding a new owner, Moody's analysts said.

Glendale is slowly sinking itself in a mountain of debt to pursue its insane strategy to subsidize every billionaire sports owner in Arizona.  The town of 225,000 people is spending $25,000,000 to fund the operating losses of a freaking hockey team -- that's nearly $500 a year for every 4-person family in the city.  Nuts.  And this is just their operating subsidy, it does not include debt service on the $300 million stadium it built for the team.

The problem is that the team is worth less than $100 million in Arizona (based on recent sales comps of other NHL franchises in warm cities like Atlanta) but might be worth $300-$400 million if moved to Canada (Jim Balsillie made an offer in this range, including an offer to pay down $150 million or so of the city's debt, before RIM stock started to crash).  The NHL, which owns the team now, has promised owners that they will not take a penny less than $200 million for the team, and that they will not suffer any operating losses.

So, because they simply cannot admit they were wrong to subsidize the team the first time around, to keep the team in Glendale the city must either fund $25 million a year in team operating losses or it must pony up $100 million or so to bridge the team's $100 million value in Arizona and the league's $200 million price tag (something they tried and failed to do last year when the Goldwater Institute pointed out that such a subsidy was unconstitutional in AZ.

I repeat, what a big freaking mess.  How do you avoid it?  The only way is the Wargames strategy, ie the only winning move is not to lay the sports team subsidy game in the first place.

New Business Model: 1. Move To Glendale, AZ 2. Threaten to Leave 3. Collect Taxpayer Money

I have been following the story on this blog of how Glendale, Arizona has been throwing wads of taxpayer money at the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team and at any rich person who might be willing to buy the team.  The city of 225,000 citizens spent nearly $200 million on a stadium, promised to hand a buyer of the team $100 million to help with the purchase, plus hand the new buyer a stadium contract worth about $100 million over five years.  While this all plays out, Glendale paid the NHL $25 million last year to help cover the team's losses and has agreed to pay another $25 million this year.

Wow.  This is just amazing, written all in one place.  But its not just hockey that the small corporate-state suburb on Phoenix wants to subsidize.  Here is the latest recipient of largess:

Bechtel Corp., one of Glendale's largest employers, has agreed to stay until 2018 after city officials offered the company about $1 million in incentives.

By next year, the global engineering and construction company, with the city's financial help, will move from north Glendale to a new, vacant building not far from the city's sports district called the Glendale Corporate Center....

Under the agreement, Glendale would give $576,000 over the next two years to Bechtel for its costs to outfit the building shell for offices.

The incentive package also includes a waiver of $50,000 in city permit fees and a job-retention incentive of $1,250 per employee, up to $400,000. Each eligible employee must earn a salary of at least $50,000 per year.

Glendale offered a sports perk as well.

Bechtel can use the city's suites, both at Camelback Ranch Glendale and Jobing.com Arena, for free twice.

LOL, Jobing.com arena is the hockey rink the city built, so it is giving tickets from its subsidized hockey club to its subsidized engineering firm.  The article includes the usual consultant figures who reliably take money from cities to report on all the indirect benefits and revenues and economic activity that result from their subsidies.

However, these are not the first subsidies paid to Bechtel by Glendale

The corporation first came to Glendale in 2002. Bechtel moved to Talavi Corporate Center from Phoenix after Glendale promised $1 million in incentives. The staff at the time was expected to grow to 500 from 300.

Bechtel's staffing is only at 320 today, not 500, but this failure to actually grow jobs after getting subsidies for job growth is pretty typical of these deals.    My interpretation of this is that this is yet another move to get more tenants around its sports complex, to raise the stakes and apparent costs if the hockey team moves.  Glendale will cry that they can't lost the hockey team, think of all the tenants in the surrounding real estate, when it was the city itself that spent money to put all its eggs in this one basket.

The only funny part of the article is the Talavi real estate folks.  They were thrilled to gain a new tenant in 2002 due to the city's relocation subsidies, but now suddenly think such subsidies are unfair.

Bechtel's landlords at Talavi aren't happy about the move.

"We were actually a little surprised to hear Glendale was offering incentives," said Damon Elder, spokesman for Daymark Realty Advisers, which was negotiating a lease extension with Bechtel for Talavi's owners.

"We would think the city would be fair-minded with all of their corporate citizens. . . . I don't know why the city would be pitting one location against another."

For those of us who simply think of ourselves as residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area, or even broader just as Americans, we are surprised about the earlier subsidy as well, wondering why taxpayers of a small suburb are paying big bucks to move businesses back and forth a few miles across the town line.

But of course, this is not the worst example. A few years ago, Phoenix tried to spend $100 million in subsidies to move a Nordstrom and a Bloomingdales one mile and one freeway exit (out of Scottsdale).

By the way, Glendale's economic development director has made it official, we live in a corporate state:

"[government relocation incentives are] just a modern, Fortune 100 corporate expectation," Friedman said. "If you have a top-notch, world-class company in your community, your absolute goal should be to make sure they are successful and are content in your community and want to remain."

Another Lesson In Why We Shouldn't Subsidize Sports Teams

The city of Glendale, Arizona (a 250,000 population suburb of Phoenix) continues to pour money into its NHL Hockey Team.  The city has already spent $200 million on a stadium and is trying to find a legal way to hand $100 million to a private individual to buy the team and keep it in Glendale.  But that is not even the end of it:

The Phoenix Coyotes are expected to stay in Glendale at least one more season, with or without a permanent owner, if the City Council pledges another $25 million to the National Hockey League.

The cash would go to offset team and arena losses.....

The pledge is the second financial promise in as many years.

Glendale this week paid $25 million it pledged the league a year ago in hopes of keeping the Coyotes in town until a permanent owner was found.

The city paid this year's $25 million from a utilities-repair account.

It's unclear whether that same fund would be used again and when the city would have to pay.

The NHL says the team and arena lost $37 million last season.

Just to give you a sense of scale, $25 million a year is larger than the city's fire department budget.  It is over $100 for every man, woman, and child in the city, each of the last two years.  Residents of the town are subsidizing a money-losing team mainly enjoyed, to the extent it has fans, by people outside of the city of Glendale.  It is a $25 million city annual expenditure that mainly helps three or four bars and restaurants next to the facility.  Just paying off those obviously politically connected retail owners a few hundred thousand each would be cheaper.

Is the Media Pro Big Government?

I have never really liked to wallow much in the accusation and counter-accusations of media bias.  But I am coming around to the hypothesis that the media is neither liberal or conservative but has a big government bias.  Recently, as in this article, the Arizona Republic (our daily paper) has been going after the Goldwater Institute for opposing what amounts to a $200 million subsidy to a buyer of our hockey team.

The short story is that after the city of Glendale blew a bunch of money for a hockey stadium in the desert, it turns out hockey is not very popular here (surprise).  So the team went bankrupt, and threatened to move.  To keep it from moving, the city of Glendale wants to throw more good money after bad and subsidize the new buyer.   Goldwater is challenging the subsidy as illegal under AZ law.

As I noted in the previous article, third parties value the Coyotes at $117 million.  So with this new bond issue, they will have run up $380 million in debt to keep a $117 million asset in town.  Further, they will have basically paid the entire purchase price of the team (and more) without getting a drop of equity in return.  All they get is the right to charge for parking around the arena, which is currently free.  This at first makes some sense (though the value of the concession is never mentioned) but in fact it is ludicrous as well.  The entire reason for the subsidy, supposedly, is to protect the mall/apartment/office complex around the stadium that the city cut sweetheart deals with developers to make happen.  So now they are going to charge for parking -- what is going to happen to all those businesses they supposedly are doing this for when their customer's parking is not longer free?

Anyway, the Republic editorialized against Goldwater on Sunday (in an editorial titled "Back off, Goldwater Institute") saying that they were hurting taxpayers because if the new bond issue and team sale fails, then there won't be any revenue to pay the old bond issue.  Its hard to figure how this is any different from doubling down at the roulette table in hopes of making back one's past losses.  And, Goldwater opposed the first bond issue too.

Now, the Republic has editorialized again, this time in a nominally news article.  They argue that by pointing out the potential illegality of the subsidy, Goldwater is messing up their bond interest rates.  I kid you not:

As Glendale prepares to sell bonds to finance its Phoenix Coyotes deal, the interest rates the city obtains make a big difference in how much debt Glendale would take on.

Team buyer Matthew Hulsizer says investors are demanding high interest rates due to nervousness among bond buyers about a potential Goldwater Institute lawsuit over whether the city is illegally subsidizing a private business. Glendale maintains it's on firm legal ground.

This is exactly the line the paper took in its Sunday editorial.  Now they are giving an interested party the ability repeat it in a supposed news article.  The author deliberately puts Goldwater on the spot and in the center of blame

Late Monday, Hulsizer questioned whether the Goldwater Institute wanted the team to stay.

"If they do indeed want the team to stay, then wouldn't they want the city to be able to complete financing at the best possible rate?" he said in a statement to The Arizona Republic.

He asked, if the Coyotes left Glendale, what Goldwater's plan was for the city to pay off its construction debt on the arena and for businesses nearby to survive without hockey customers. The city spent $180 million to open the arena in 2003.

Why in heaven's name is it Goldwater's problem that an earlier bond issue they actively opposed as a bad idea might turn out to, you know, have been a bad idea?  The article goes on and on this way, quoting other people of the same point of view. Goldwater doesn't get a quote until paragraph 24 or so, where Darcey Olson who heads the Institute says

She said Glendale has "unlimited options" to avoid a Goldwater lawsuit. "For instance, Hulsizer could get a private loan to buy this team like most businesses do," she said. "They finance their investments not on the backs of taxpayers but take the risk privately where it belongs."

The evidence of the article that Goldwater is shaking the very pillars of Wall Street is that the city expected one set of interest rates, but the market was giving them higher rates

Glendale officials in December hoped for a roughly 6 percent interest rate.

Todd Curtis, portfolio manager for Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Arizona, said he expected to see a 5 to 5.5 percent interest rate after Moody's Investors Service in mid-February gave the Coyotes bond sale a fairly high rating.

More than a week ago, Curtis was hearing of proposed rates around 7 percent.

Of course, they present no evidence as to why this might be. We are left to assume it is because Goldwater is somehow creating unfair bad vibes. Except then we get this oh-by-the-way near the end of the article:

Moody's and Standard & Poor's raised worries in February about the city's debt levels. As a result, Moody's downgraded several city bond ratings and Standard put the city on a watch list, though the city's ratings remain high.

Also, Glendale pledged to cover the Coyotes bonds with sales taxes, a revenue stream hurt during the recession. The city in its preliminary bond statement points out its sales-tax base is strong.

OK, lets check the reporter's decision-making here.  We have five facts

  • The major bond ratings agencies recently put the city on a credit watch list
  • Sales tax revenues that pay for the bonds are way down
  • The city is investing $200 million in a $116 million dollar asset without getting any equity
  • The city has a history of failed bond issues, as evidenced by the previous $180 bond issue they are trying to bail out with this one
  • A local think tank has raised legal questions about the deal -- legal questions that turned out to be correct in a parallel case.

So our lede is that it is all about the fifth one, just because millionaire Matthew Hulsizer, who is set to feed at the public trough to the tune of $200 million, says its so?

Ask yourself, what is the first section of the paper many folks look at?  The sports page?  An extra professional sports team adds a hard to quantify but definite amount to the paper's bottom line.  The AZ Republic clearly recognizes this and is all-in for any taxpayer subsidy that is required to keep this important part of their business running.