The Coyotes' lease at Gila River Arena runs out this season
The Arizona Coyotes have entered into an agreement that will see them relocate from their current home at Gila River Arena in Glendale to a new, 16,000-seat arena in Tempe.
The Arizona Coyotes are moving, though it’s not exactly the type of relocation some would have expected for the at-times troubled franchise.
After more than a decade in Glendale, the Coyotes announced Monday that the club has entered into a negotiation agreement with Catellus Development Corporation with designs on being one of the primary — and likely one of the first — tenants in the Arizona State University Athletic Facilities District. The plan is to construct a 16,000-seat arena with an attached 4,000-seat building that will be used by Arizona State’s NCAA program, as well as a practice facility for the NHL club.
"Over the past year we have been exhaustive in our research regarding the most optimal location for our new home in the Valley," said Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc in a statement. "While we have tremendous fans all across the greater Phoenix metro area, not to mention the entire state, it became clear that the East Valley is home to a majority of our fans and corporate partners.”
As part of the agreement, the Coyotes and Catellus have until June 30, 2017 to come up with “the overall budget, design and operational plan for the development,” meanwhile the Coyotes will also be tasked with “finalizing a partnership with other public sector constituents including the State and the City of Tempe.”
Currently, the Coyotes play at Glendale’s Gila River Arena, but the lease agreement for the building will be up at the end of the campaign and it comes as no surprise that the Coyotes are leaving their current with their agreement almost coming to a close, especially with the team’s relationship with the city growing increasingly difficult over their stay. Relocation talks surrounding the team often centered on issues between the franchise and the city regarding the lease agreement, and it became clear that once the current lease agreement was up, the Coyotes’ ownership group would go looking for a new home.
The issues with the building have gone beyond the lease agreement, though, as the Coyotes attendance has been nothing short of disastrous while playing in the West Valley.
According to ESPN’s attendance figures, the Coyotes started off strong in Glendale, averaging nearly 15,500 during their first two seasons in the building in 2003-04 and 2005-06, but by the 2009-10 campaign, a year in which the Coyotes made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, the attendance dipped to less than 12,000 per game. That has recovered slightly in the years since, but the attendance has remained around 13,500 in each of the past four seasons.
“(The Coyotes have) had challenges in Glendale and they've recently had relationship challenges with the people who run that arena,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, according to ESPN’s Scott Burnside. “I think a different location and a better relationship can do wonders for that franchise, and I expect it will."
This doesn’t, however, mean the Coyotes’ stay in Glendale will be coming at the end of the campaign. Because of the time it will take for the new arena to be built, the team will likely negotiate an extension of the current league, and AZ Central’s Jeff Metcalfe reported the current plan would see the Coyotes remain at Gila River Arena until the end of the 2018-19 season.
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!