June 12, 2015 / 9:55 PM / 2 years ago

Judge puts hold on Arizona city's effort to evict NHL's Coyotes

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A county judge put a temporary hold on Friday on an Arizona city’s effort to end its lease agreement with the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes to play at its city-owned arena, court officials said.

Mar 5, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Arizona Coyotes celebrate after the shootout against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes won 3-2 in a shootout Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports - RTR4S9KV

Judge Dawn Bergin granted a request made by the team in Maricopa County Superior Court for a temporary restraining order to block the decision made by the Glendale City Council this week.

Coyotes officials went to court earlier on Friday seeking the order, arguing in a statement that it was needed “to defend their rights and reaffirm their continuing commitment to their great fans.”

The team said in the statement that the legal action was needed to “stop the City of Glendale’s baseless attack on, and improper attempt to void, the Coyotes’ lawful and proper lease.”

On Wednesday, the council voted 5-2 to terminate the team’s lease at the Gila River Arena, citing a law that bars city employees from being a part of contract negotiations and later working for the other side. No specific individual was cited.

“We can’t and won’t support a contract that favored the sports team over the interests of Glendale citizens,” Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said in a statement, adding that efforts to renegotiate the pact were rejected by the team.

Meanwhile, the city said it would hold a closed-door executive session on Tuesday following a possible breakthrough in the dispute.

“An opportunity for the two of us to discuss the issues has presented itself, and I am optimistic that with continued dialogue we can come to an agreement that satisfies both parties,” Weiers said.

A spokeswoman could not elaborate on the details. The city has yet to send a required letter to the Coyotes making formal the City Council’s decision.

Coyotes officials have blasted the council’s decision, which could oust the team from its suburban Phoenix home, ending a 15-year, $225 million agreement signed in 2013.

The deal was signed several months after the team was purchased from the NHL by IceArizona, a group of business executives. A hedge fund manager bought 51 percent of the team last year.

The City Council’s decision poses yet another question for a franchise that has been on shaky financial footing since it arrived in 1996, with almost constant rumors that the team would leave Arizona.

Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech

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