The Arizona Coyotes are working on a multi-year deal to play next season at Arizona State University’s yet-to-be-completed 5,000-seat arena, according to a report by Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports.
Morgan reported that the Coyotes would play in the arena, which appears to not have had naming rights sold for it, for the next three to four years while construction on an as-yet-approved arena in nearby Tempe is completed.
The 5,000-seat capacity would be by far the lowest in the NHL. Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg currently has the lowest official capacity, at 15,294.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Morgan in an email, “While we have arena standards, we would approach the entire situation in a way intended to accommodate the club’s needs in effectuating a successful transition to a new venue. While there may very well be some, I can’t think of any hard and fast rules that couldn’t be relaxed to accommodate what is necessary.” He added, when Morgan asked specifically about approving a move to an arena with such a small capacity, “depends on the totality of circumstances, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
When contacted by Sportsnet, a Coyotes spokesman replied with the statement, “As we have said many times, we are completely committed to building our future in Arizona. As part of that process, we are excited to be exploring some great temporary arena options here before we move in to a new permanent home in the Valley.”
The NHLPA said a few issues must be sorted out before the move.
“The Coyotes’ anticipated move in 2022-23 from Gila River Arena in Glendale to a temporary Arizona venue raises a number of matters that the league and the NHLPA will need to work through,” a spokesperson for the NHLPA said in a statement to Sportsnet. “Ideally, these matters will be sorted out well in advance of next season.”
The Coyotes have the third-lowest attendance in the league, averaging 11,575 per game, above only the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres.
The new arena, which is just east of Sun Devil Stadium, is projected to open this fall and is still under construction. According to AZCentral.com, the new arena is intended to be the home to the Arizona State University NCAA Division I hockey team, “wrestling and women’s gymnastics and be a venue for concerts, conferences, youth competitions and other events.”
Morgan added that because of NCAA rules, the Coyotes would have to construct their own team-specific areas, such as dressing rooms, training facilities, etc. A source estimated to Morgan that the cost to the Coyotes for the additions would be $15 million to $20 million.
The Coyotes have been leasing Gila River Arena on an annual basis since the Glendale City Council voted to opt out of a multimillion-dollar long-term deal in 2016. Glendale announced recently that it will not renew its agreement with the franchise beyond the 2021-22 season.
The Coyotes have played at Gila River Arena since moving from America West Arena, which they shared with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in downtown Phoenix, in 2003.
In September, the Coyotes proposed the $1.7-billion development in Tempe, a city just east of Phoenix, that included a hockey arena, restaurants, shops and apartments on a 46-acre tract of land near the city’s downtown. The proposal was in danger of not getting enough votes to pass, Morgan previously reported.