The Coyotes will not play their 2023 home games in the Gila River Arena, after the city of Glendale announced that it would be opting out of the team’s lease agreement — meaning the team will be forced out of their current home on June 30, 2022.
This comes after months of stalled negotiations between the Arizona Coyotes and the city regarding the terms of a lease extension for the arena. Glendale’s city manager, Kevin Phelps, said the two parties had just “reached the point of no return.” As both sides tried to come to an agreement, neither was able to budge on their points, and ultimately no decision could be made.
According to Strang’s story, the team was also allegedly hemorrhaging money:
According to a July 29 letter sent on behalf of Phelps to Chuck Steedman, executive vice president of strategy and development of ASM Global, and Dale Adams, the general manager of Gila River Arena, titled: “Re: Coyotes past due,” Phelps informed Steedman and Adams that the Coyotes owed $1,462,792 to the arena as of July 17. In the letter, obtained via a public-records request filed earlier this month, Phelps said that more than $300,000 of that amount is “over four months delinquent,” The letter also communicated previous late payments and forgiven debts from the prior season.
Whether or not Glendale was capable of supporting an NHL franchise has been a subject of scrutiny ever since the team made the move out of the Phoenix area prior to the 2003-04 season. The team has made efforts to move back to the greater Phoenix area, but none of their attempts have come to fruition.
Turmoil has plagued the Arizona Coyotes’ organization since long before money ever became a serious issue. Aside from the drafting of dickhead Michael Miller last year, the Coyotes, per The Athletic, have been subject to a “toxic” work environment ever since Alex Meruelo took over as the team’s majority owner in July 2019.
So, what does the future hold for the Arizona Coyotes’ franchise? Currently, there’s mutual interest between the Coyotes and the city of Tempe to build an arena there (just east of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport — and go ahead, crack wise all you want… yes, the site is a former solid waste compost yard).
However, arena development strategies that were originally supposed to be submitted by August 19, were forced back to September 2. There are a few other cities the Coyotes could look into if they or the NHL determine the state of Arizona is incapable of supporting an NHL franchise.
Houston is the first city that comes to mind. It is the most populous city in the United States and Canada that does not have an NHL franchise. Furthermore, Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, has expressed interest in bringing an NHL team to the city that was once home to the AHL and IHL’s Aeros.
Another city that could work would be Quebec City. The city tried to acquire an NHL team in 2016, but ultimately lost its bid for an expansion franchise to Vegas. They still have the resources in place from their 1995 franchise, the Nordiques, to support an NHL team today. Also, in 2015, the city opened the Videotron Centre which is currently capable of seating 18,259 fans and has played host to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts since it opened. It would make for a perfect home for a new franchise.
Still, I don’t believe the NHL has given up on Arizona as a home for an NHL franchise. Sure, the team filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and has had problems generating money since the team’s inception in 1996, but there’s still hope that Arizona could support the Coyotes given the appropriate resources. Therefore, it’s still very likely that the Coyotes remain in The Grand Canyon State. A move to downtown Phoenix or Tempe could be in the cards very soon as the team scrambles to prepare for their move-out date from Glendale.