GLENDALE, Ariz. — When the city of Glendale backed out of an arena lease deal with the Arizona Coyotes last year, it put the future of the franchise in doubt yet again.
Turns out, Glendale may have done the Coyotes a favour.
The Coyotes announced a proposal Monday to build a 16,000-seat arena near Arizona State University’s main campus by 2019, a deal that would put the team in the heart of the Phoenix area’s population and financial centre.
"Someone said at the time it would be a silver lining," Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said of the Glendale City Council’s decision. "This is a gold lining."
The new arena will be on a 58-acre parcel within Arizona State’s Athletic Facilities District, less than two miles from campus. The NHL arena will include an attached 4,000-seat multi-sport arena that would be used for Coyotes practices as well as by ASU athletics and youth hockey teams.
The Coyotes’ agreement with developer Catellus Development Corp. sets a June 30 deadline for creating the overall budget, design and operational plan for developing the arena.
Coyotes majority owner Andrew Barroway said the arena will cost around $400 million, with the team picking up about half the cost. The other half will be through public-private funding, according to LeBlanc.
"Let’s be realistic here: These types of arenas don’t happen without some kind of public-private partnership," LeBlanc said. "It’s an absolute requirement, but the world has shifted where teams would look for the entire bill to be covered by a governmental agency, you see a shift toward the middle of the spectrum."
The Coyotes shared an arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns after moving from Winnipeg in 1996 and moved to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale in 2003. The team had other options at the time, including Scottsdale, but the area where they are now was expected to be the growth area in Phoenix, so the franchise went with Glendale.
The Coyotes’ time in Glendale has been tumultuous, starting with former owner Jerry Moyes taking the team into bankruptcy in 2009, leading to the franchise being operated by the NHL for four years.
The Coyotes signed a 15-year, $225 million arena lease deal with the city of Glendale in 2013, but the City Council voted to terminate the lease last year. The sides agreed to a restructured lease agreement last July to keep the team in Glendale for two more seasons. The team has a lease option for next season and LeBlanc said the team is already working on extending it.
Arizona had considered sites in downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe before LeBlanc announced in June that the team had selected a then-unnamed site for its new home.
One of the drawbacks of having the arena on the west side of town was that it was too difficult for fans on the east side to get to games, particularly during rush-hour traffic for weekday games.
The new site will put the Coyotes on the more-populous east side of the Valley of the Sun and, they hope, lead to bigger crowds. The Coyotes annually have among the NHL’s lowest attendance figures.
"Any business that you run, you want to make sure you’re close as possible to the majority of your customers," LeBlanc said. "It’s just a simple, empirical fact that the majority of the people are on the east side. That’s not to say anything negative about our friends here on the west side, it’s just a fact that the vast majority are on the east side."
The Coyotes hope to have construction begin by the end of next summer and have the arena ready for play by the 2019-20 season. There are still a few hurdles to cross — namely the public funding side of the equation — but Monday was a big step toward the Coyotes finding a permanent home.
"It’s a long road to get here, but everything looks great for the Coyotes," Barroway said. "For staying in Arizona. We’re going to be in a place we think is the ideal location. We’re going to build a world-class facility we believe our fans will be excited about and want to come to."