On Thursday, the city of Glendale announced they were pulling the plug on the Arizona Coyotes lease effective at the end of next season. Glendale’s latest jab at Coyotes – at least for now – means the end of their tenure in Glendale. A tenure that has had a rocky relationship at best over the past decade has always seemed destined for an abrupt end. The Coyotes have long been seeking a home outside of Glendale so this move is not all that surprising or unexpected albeit the Coyotes surely would have preferred it on their own terms.
For the city, Glendale is moving on after 18 years and long battles with previous ownership, the NHL and Coyotes fans including a memorable council meeting moment where the city once before terminated their lease agreement back in June of 2015:
A fun fact about that lease termination – the city ended up going back on their actions and came to a resolution with the team a little over a month later. Regardless, the absolute roasting of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and at the time rightfully so was a sight to behold.
While one should never say never in many scenarios, I would be hard pressed to see a resolution this time around unless the Coyotes forked over a bunch of money up-front (key word here) to the city in order to extend 2-3 years until they get the Tempe arena deal squared away.
A major problem this time around is that the ownership group slipped up on payments to the city and has been late in paying ASM Global who manages Gila River Arena just furthered the strain on the relationship. The city which is due a portion of those funds from ASM Global is then left holding the bag. Add in the notion of being tossed aside by the NHL and the team in the hopes of a new arena and one could understand why the city is looking to move on.
The notion however by City Manager Kevin Phelps that the city is better off using the Arena for other events and eliminating the guaranteed 43 dates the Coyotes would be at home and somehow come out with ahead is laughable at best. The Gila River Arena is barely a strong attraction now for big ticket events.
With stiff competition coming from the Phoenix Suns Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort, State Farm Stadium in Glendale which the city does not own itself, as well as Ak-Chin Pavilion which is practically in GRA’s backyard. That’s not counting the countless other venues that draw events in the valley which already have an impact on their ability to lead big shows to GRA.
Once and if the Coyotes lock up an arena deal with Tempe, the team will have the newest and most state of the art facility in the valley which will only further add to the difficulty. Maybe the city is looking outside of the arena walls and banking on Crystal Lagoons and the Mattel theme parks that will be opening in 2022 to help buffer the losses but it is the small businesses in the Westgate Entertainment District that will be hit hardest by this decision. Either way they’ll need to do something drastic to GRA in order to remain relevant in the valley.
For now, the Coyotes will have to work rapidly to secure a spot to play in next season. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7FM here in Phoenix believes the team only has 2 options here in the valley:
With the Footprint Center likely off the table, and if the city won’t back down from their statement the club’s only true option left here in the valley is the MadHouse on McDowell.
The Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum is- an old building to say the least – that is more know for the Arizona State Fair than anything else of late. The building which housed the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA while the Footprint Center renovation plans were underway has a rich hockey history that goes back decades. The building opened in 1965 and was the former home of the Phoenix Roadrunners during separate tenures. It was their home from 1967 to 974 while in the Western Hockey League, from 1974 to 1977 while in the World Hockey Association and finally from 1989 to 1997 while in the International Hockey League. The Phoenix Mustangs of the West Coast Hockey League also called the MadHouse home from 1997 until 2001.
A fun little fact for hockey fans: the MadHouse saddle shape, tension-cable roof design influenced the Scotiabank Saddledome that houses the Calgary Flames in Alberta Canada.
While the foundation and layout is there for hockey, the amount of money it may cost to bring the Coliseum up to an NHL standard even as a stop gap may be too much for the Coyotes to bear. The Coyotes will need to look at the New York Islanders blueprint of escaping the disaster that was the Barclays Center and how they rebirthed the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as their home until the new Belmont Arena arrives next season.
Is the city of Phoenix or the state of Arizona willing to put down millions of dollars in renovations for the Coliseum to give it a grand rebirth only for it to retreat to the back burner once the Coyotes move on would remain to be seen. The actions of the city council for Phoenix previously regarding arena deals would dictate strongly against that belief.
While many outside the know of Phoenix and the state will be quick to point to relocation, it would be hard pressed to believe that is a top option of consideration. Coyotes owner and his group has long stood strong on the notion that the Coyotes are here to stay and not once has that seemed to waver. With the state also legalizing sports betting and a license to be granted to professional sports teams in the state it’s hard to believe owner Alex Meruelo will give that up. The licenses once active will essentially be a license to print money for any group that holds it. Added that NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman has continually stood firm on his statement of the Coyotes staying in Arizona including after this recent report that further cements the notion.
For now, Coyotes fans again must wait and endure more uncertainty for the franchise that has called the valley home since the late 90’s.
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