Even though the Arizona Coyotes are in the final season of their lease agreement with Gila River Arena, the team hasn’t yet made clear where they intend to play next season. That said, a brand new arena in Scottsdale could be an enticing option.
Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan reported that a group of private developers is looking into the potential for a new 20,000-seat arena in the Scottsdale Pavilions area, which could be part of a larger “sports village.” Though the developers say they have been looking into constructing the arena without a permanent tenant, there’s a chance the group could be chasing the Coyotes to use the building as their full-time home.
“We’re looking at the feasibility of filling it up with event nights,” a source told Morgan. “Obviously, a permanent tenant would be helpful, but we have been examining the option even without a permanent tenant.”
No decision has been made regarding the future of the arena project, but whether or not the group decides to proceed with the arena could be decided with in the next six months, according to Morgan. But even with a soft deadline around the corner, no progress has been made to finding a permanent tenant for the building and it really doesn’t appear the Coyotes are all that interested in the project.
Morgan reported that the development group had set a meeting with the Coyotes for shortly after the beginning of the season, but that meeting was nixed “at the last minute for unspecified reasons,” and the two sides haven’t convened since.
“Throughout this process we have had a number of groups solicit our involvement,” Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told Morgan. “This particular group and site are not one with which the Coyotes are working.”
Over the past several seasons, the Coyotes have very clearly been unhappy with their situation in Glendale and would prefer to be closer to downtown in hopes of increasing attendance. However, no headway has actually been made in finding the franchise a new home come next season. Morgan pointed to a possible partnership with Arizona State University, which recently landed a Division 1 NCAA team, and while those discussions may be ongoing, an announcement for a new building hasn’t yet been made.
Even if the Coyotes were to sign on to be part of the arena project in Scottsdale, chances are the building wouldn’t be ready by the time the Coyotes’ lease runs out in Glendale. That means it’s a real possibility — and at this point, it seems a near certainty — that the Coyotes will be forced to extend their lease agreement at Gila River Arena for at least the 2017-18 campaign, even if that’s only for just one year.
"We'll figure that out," Leblanc told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen in December 2015. "If I have a list of 10 problems, that's not on it. The real situation we need to figure out is long term. Once we figure out long term, short term will work itself out. We've seen this in other markets in various sports, if there is a commitment of a new facility coming, we'll be able to figure it out.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Get 10 issues of The Hockey News magazine for just $15.99!