December 6, 2017 | 9:34pm ET
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR COYOTES IN ARIZONA?
Derek Stepan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Just over one year ago, the Arizona Coyotes announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art facility in Tempe, Arizona, in conjunction with Arizona State University. At the time, everyone, including NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, was excited about the expected move to the 16,000-plus seat arena.
The cost of that building was in the $400 million range, and was considered to be in a better part of the greater-Phoenix area for commuters.
However, in February, ASU backed out of the plans and that put the Coyotes feverishly looking for a new building to call home.
TFP reported earlier in the year of the possibility of returning to the city of Phoenix, with a new arena that could potentially house both the Coyotes and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, who play out of the 25-year-old Talking Stick Resort Arena and are also looking for a new facility.
For over a decade, the Coyotes have been in turmoil over playing in the City of Glendale, and have been ridiculed for their poor turnouts. Owner after owner has tried to fix the problem, but it’s clear the team cannot succeed much further unless it moves to another part of the greater-Phoenix area.
On March 7, Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway went on record, through a team-released statement, to say the team “cannot survive in Glendale.”
Bettman agreed in his own letter, also penned on March 7, to local legislature:
“The simple truth? The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed,” he wrote. “The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”
Added Barroway in his statement:
“The Glendale location is wrong – both geographically and economically – given its distance from much of the Coyotes' fan base and, in particular, premium ticketholders and corporate sponsors.
“The bottom line remains the same: the team's owners continue to lose tens of millions of dollars annually. Consistent losses of such magnitude are not sustainable – not for an NHL franchise, or any other business”
It now appears ownership across the NHL is reaching the ends of its rope with the Coyotes, according to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.
In a radio interview on Wednesday on Overdrive on TSN1050 in Toronto, Dreger indicated that some people around the NHL’s higher-ranks are fed up.
“Powerful owners that I’ve talked to in the last couple of days, maybe they don’t stand up in the room and stamp their feet and say ‘enough is enough,’ but they want a real hard read this season as to where this situation is at in Arizona,” he said. “They want an arena deal in place at the end of the season, or it’s time to move on.”
Dreger suggested the NHL and the Coyotes may be once again trying to partner with the NBA and the Suns to jointly invest their interested and secure a new arena, to play out of together.
It’s unclear where the Coyotes may be in terms of this option, or if talks have progressed or disappeared with the Suns, but it’s becoming clear that the team’s tenure in Arizona may be coming to an end without a new arena in the works.
According to one league executive, TFP has learned that if the Coyotes cannot lock in a new building “by the start of next season” and be prepared to call that building home for the 2020-21 season, they may be forced to move.
The Coyotes’ current arrangement with Gila River Arena in Glendale allows the team to renew its lease on an annual basis after the city tore up the original 15-year lease agreement in 2015, replacing it with a two-year deal that can be renewed annually – the Coyotes obviously renewed it for the 2017-18 season.
This news comes out after Seattle city council approving a $600 million renovation to KeyArena, led by the Oak View Group, who have partnered with billionaire David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring an NHL franchise to the city.
Quebec City has made its intentions visibly clear that it wants a NHL team again, while Houston has re-emerged as a contender, with Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, a 60-year-old billionaire, exploring the possibility of tossing his hat in the ring for an NHL franchise.
With Seattle poised to jump at the top of the list to become the NHL’s 32nd franchise, as TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta reported earlier this week, Houston may move ahead of Quebec City in terms of being a relocation option for the Coyotes to keep the conferences even with 16 teams each.