Coyotes livid as arena plan takes another hit with cancellation of land auction

Arizona Coyotes Chairman and Governor Alex Meruelo speaks at a news conference regarding a provision for Arizona to get an expansion team if a new arena is built within the next five years with the announcement of the current team relocating to Salt Lake City Friday, April 19, 2024, in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Arizona State Land Department has cancelled the June 27 auction the Arizona Coyotes were expecting to take part in as part of their hopes of building a new arena.

The ASLD is looking for Miracle Development, LLC., the Coyotes’ developer, to acquire a special use permit in order to provide certainty that the organization can follow through on its plan to build on the land.

“After much consideration, the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) has determined that it is in the best interest of the Trust to cancel the auction and reorder the steps,” the ASLD said in a release. “ASLD recently confirmed that the proposed arena use will require a Special Use Permit, and as a result we are requesting that the applicant file for and receive a Special Use Permit prior to the auction. This affords the applicant and ASLD certainty that the applicant can build what it intends to build for its anchor tenant. It is not uncommon for ASLD to require applicants to secure zoning/use permits prior to auction.

“We understand the delay in an auction is a disappointment for our applicant and members of the public, but the change in timing is the prudent decision for the Trust. ASLD remains open to working with our applicant to bring the land forward to auction in the future if a special use permit is received.”

The Coyotes’ Miracle Development, LLC., was the only registered bid on the land located in Phoenix, bordering Scottsdale. The Arizona State Land Department Board of Appeals unanimously approved the $68.5million appraisal of the 95 acres. Bidding was expected to start at that amount and must be made in $100,000 increments at minimum.

In a statement released on Friday, the Coyotes expressed their shock and displeasure at the cancellation of the land auction, believing it “seriously jeopardizes” any NHL return to Arizona.

“It has been made very clear to the State of Arizona that the Coyotes are committed to building out the infrastructure, going through the necessary approvals and developing the site into a world class destination, yet the ASLD has cancelled the auction despite the objections of the Coyotes less than a week before the scheduled auction date.

“The organization has worked in good faith with the ASLD and has been on track to win the auction next week until the sudden reversal by ASLD today,” the club continued. “The Arizona Coyotes are exploring all of our legal options given this shortsighted decision by the State.”

Owner Alex Meruelo sold the team to Utah’s Ryan and Ashley Smith in a $1.2-billion deal brokered by the league after the regular season.

Meruelo retained the rights to the Coyotes’ name, logo and trademark. He also got a five-year window granted to build an arena and reactivate the Arizona franchise.

Politicians were critical of the Coyotes after the announcement.

Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring told the Arizona Republic that the Coyotes should “get a zoning attorney.

“They don’t have one,” he said. “Get in the city, come up with a plan and go through the process. Then buy it.”

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega ripped Meruelo in a text message to the Republic.

“Mr. Meruelo’s fantasy hockey proposal was just a smokescreen as he exited after running the franchise under,” Ortega said.

The Coyotes had been in turmoil since the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, when the City of Glendale opted not to renew its contract with the team to play at Gila River Arena. Voters then rejected, in early 2023, a proposed entertainment district that would have included an arena in Tempe.

The team had been playing at Mullett Arena, a rink with a capacity of 4,600 for NHL games on the campus of Arizona State University, for the past two seasons.

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