TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes will use Arizona State’s new on-campus hockey arena for at least the next three years while the team looks for a permanent home.
Arizona State’s arena will hold about 5,000 fans, easily making it the NHL’s smallest home venue. The Coyotes will begin playing there next season, and the deal announced Thursday has an option for the 2025-26 season.
“We are thrilled that we have arranged to play our home games in Arizona State University’s new multi-purpose arena starting next season,” Coyotes President & CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said in a statement. “This will be an incredible, intimate and exciting fan experience in a state-of-the-art new arena in a fantastic location in the heart of Tempe.”
The Coyotes have been playing at Gila River Arena on an annual lease since the city of Glendale voted to terminate a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement in 2015. Glendale announced last year it would not renew the annual lease after the current NHL season.
The team has submitted a bid for a tract of land in Tempe in what could be its first step to finally landing a permanent home. The Coyotes are planning to move their corporate offices closer to Tempe later this year.
“Having made the full-time transition to Division I just seven years ago, ASU hockey already has an NCAA Tournament appearance to its credit and now is moving into a new, state-of-the-art facility,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Hockey is thriving in Tempe, and we are delighted that the Coyotes’ passionate fans will get to experience ASU’s on-campus energy while the Club’s new arena is being built.”
When the Coyotes first moved from Winnipeg in 1996, the team shared America West Arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in downtown Phoenix. The team moved to Gila River Arena in 2003, but faced near-constant relocation rumors as ownership changed hands.
Former owner Jerry Moyes took the Coyotes into bankruptcy in 2009 and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie put in a bid to purchase the team with the intention of moving it to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL, wanting to keep the team in Arizona, put in a counter bid and a Phoenix judge ruled the team could not be sold to Balsillie to circumvent the NHL’s relocation rules.
The NHL ran the Coyotes for four seasons and the financial constraints associated with that took a toll, leading in part to a seven-year playoff drought.
A new ownership group brought new hope in 2013, but turmoil surfaced again in 2015, when the city of Glendale backed out of the lease agreement.
Plans for a new shared arena with Arizona State University fell through in 2017 and the franchise’s future in the Phoenix area continued to remain in doubt.
Andrew Barroway gave the Coyotes a bit more financial flexibility when he bought a majority stake in the team in 2017, but he sold the team to current owner Alex Meruelo, who has said he plans to keep the franchise the Phoenix area.
The Coyotes also are negotiating with Ice Den Scottsdale to make the complex the team’s full-time practice facility.
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