Voters in Tempe, Ariz., on Tuesday rejected an entertainment district proposal that included building a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes, according to initial feedback. Here’s what you need to know:
- “We are very disappointed that the voters of Tempe did not approve Propositions 301, 302 and 303,” Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said Tuesday. “The next step for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks. »
- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league is “terribly disappointed” in a personal statementand “will explore with the Coyotes what options may be considered.”
- The proposed $2.1 billion privately funded project included a 16,000 seat arena, two hotels, retail stores, restaurants and up to 1,990 residential units.
- The Coyotes played the 2022-23 season at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, home of the Arizona State University Sun Devils, after being kicked out of their longtime arena in Glendale, Arizona.
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Where do the Coyotes go from here?
The most important part of the statements coming out of Tuesday’s referendum, from both the team and the NHL, is what wasn’t said. There have been many pivot points for the Coyotes over the past two decades and many official releases from major stakeholders.
They have always contained some variation on the phrase, “our goal remains to secure a future for the franchise in Arizona.” This time, his absence is flagrant. — Kind
Assess relocation options
Discussions about relocation had already swirled, and now they are likely to heat up. Houston and Atlanta are undoubtedly at the top of the list.
Both are gigantic American media markets. The former has a hockey-ready arena at Toyota Center and, in Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta, a potential buyer. Atlanta has a pending arena contract in suburban Alpharetta, run by a group that would like to give the area a third chance in the NHL.
Quebec City will also appear, as it did during the Vegas and Seattle expansion process, but it feels like the city’s time is over. There is an arena, sure, but no corporate base to speak of, and a metropolitan area of about 800,000 people. — Kind
Why it’s not surprising
The outcome here, for Valley hockey fans, is sad — but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Coyotes’ long-term success has, thus far, been limited by a combination of arena drama, poor ownership, and poor (or worse) on-ice product.
Is there much to love about the NHL concept in Arizona? Of course. The region has produced Auston Matthews, among other NHL players, Phoenix is a huge television market. The fans out there who care, do.
In a league hungry for diversity, the Coyotes are led by Latinos (owner Alex Meruelo and Gutierrez). A crazy amount of capital, effort and time has been invested in making the whole business work. But sometimes the hole is too deep, and the audience speaks for itself. — Kind
Tuesday’s vote comes nearly six months after the Tempe City Council voted unanimously (7-0) to approve the proposal in November.
According to the proposal, the team would have used private funds for the arena project, which “will not require a regional tax or a Tempe-specific tax.” A 46-acre piece of land that is currently a municipal landfill was the proposed site for the new development, which would have an estimated economic impact of $13.6 billion over 30 years, according to the proposal.
Opponents of the deal said it would have given Meruelo more than $500 million in tax breaks and called out the team for unpaid bills while they played at Glendale.
Bettman publicly endorsed the proposal in November, calling it “a win-win for the community.” He added as the league committed to holding a future draft or All-Star Game in Tempe, and the Coyotes would be held to a 30-year tenure without a move.
In August 2021, the City of Glendale notified the Coyotes that it would be opting out of its joint lease agreement for Gila River Arena, essentially forcing the team out of the building after the 2021–22 season. The Coyotes played their final game at Gila River Arena on April 29, 2022.
(Photo: David Kirouac/USA Today)