The Coyotes are in the advanced stages of discussions with Arizona State University and arena manager OVG Facilities (a division of the Oak View Group) to use ASU’s new multipurpose arena as their temporary home, sources familiar with the situation confirmed to PHNX Sports. The arena, which is scheduled for completion this fall, would serve as the Coyotes’ arena for all home games while they await approval and construction of their proposed arena along the south bank of Rio Salado in Tempe.

Per sources, the Coyotes are negotiating on a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year if construction of the permanent arena takes longer than hoped. ASU’s new arena will only seat 5,000 spectators so the venue is significantly smaller than other NHL arenas, or even Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which currently seats about 10,000 because some of its risers have been decommissioned and removed.

UPDATE: ASU CFO Morgan Olsen confirmed the talks with a statement on Thursday evening:

“If an agreement for use of our multipurpose arena is finalized, we would be glad to help the Coyotes by providing a temporary home while their new arena is built just a couple of miles away,” said Olsen, who is also ASU’s executive vice president and treasurer. “Our new multipurpose arena also would benefit from the addition of NHL-level enhancements paid for by the Coyotes that would remain with our building. We are beyond excited to open this wonderful new ASU arena. This agreement would just make it even more special.”

When asked about using an unconventional venue such as ASU’s, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is not opposed to such a move.

“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,” Daly wrote in an email. “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.”

When asked specifically if the league would approve the Coyotes playing in an arena with a seating capacity as low as 5,000, Daly said it “depends on the totality of circumstances, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Due to NCAA compliance issues, the Coyotes would not be permitted to use Sun Devil hockey’s team areas. There are also specific league requirements for team areas so the Coyotes would have to build their own, without contribution from ASU, which does not need the extra areas or it would have already built them. One source estimated that cost between $15 and $20 million, with all of that money coming out of owner Alex Meruelo’s pocket.

Because of the necessary construction, the deal would have to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.

It’s still unclear how the NHLPA would feel about the decision, but the league and the NHLPA have begun discussions regarding the Coyotes’ plans for next season. There are issues with team-space requirements, revenue sharing and more that the PA will need to understand.

“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. “Ideally, these matters will be sorted out well in advance of next season.”

Given the estimated cost of building team areas at ASU, the likely cost of necessary improvements at an existing practice facility, (the Coyotes are still exploring those options with the Ice Den Scottsdale a strong possibility), and the losses that Meruelo will incur by playing in front of smaller crowds at an arena that will not provide him with a lot of corporate sponsorship money or ancillary revenue, it’s fair to wonder why the Coyotes wouldn’t just spend the estimated $40 million to $50 million on renovations at the Coliseum where they could play and practice

For one, playing in Tempe would allow the organization to establish a partnership and relationship with the city immediately; one that the Coyotes hope will flourish in a central location much closer to the vast majority of their premium season ticket holders. There are also revenue issues at the Coliseum that would create financial losses for Meruelo. It does not have any luxury suites. ASU’s arena includes 20 luxury suites, two group suites, a large club lounge and event-level premium club seats. Because the Coliseum is a state entity, it would also require state approval. It’s unclear how long that process would take.

In addition, the time needed to make the improvements to the Coliseum would not allow the Coyotes to play there at the start of next season. The Coyotes could have begun those improvements sooner, but sources said that they were under the assumption that they would be able to continue their year-to-year lease with the City of Glendale. When it became clear that this would be their last season at Gila River Arena, it was too late to renovate the Coliseum as an option for next season. 

Scheduling will be another issue for the Coyotes. Sun Devil hockey’s schedule is already in place for the 2022-23 season and ASU hockey will maintain priority for all future dates, a source said. ASU has 24 home dates next season and all of them are on Friday or Saturday with 7 p.m. starts. The Coyotes would need to work around that schedule with some less than optimal dates.

The multi-purpose facility is also slated to host ASU’s wrestling and gymnastics teams, concerts, conferences, youth competitions and other events.

The City of Glendale, through arena manager ASM Global, has told the Coyotes that they must vacate Gila River Arena by June 30; the end of the fiscal year.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has remained steadfast in his assertion that the Coyotes will remain in Arizona. So has the Meruelo ownership group.

“Alex is committed, Alex has the resources, and the Coyotes aren’t going anywhere,” Bettman said from the NHL Board of Governors meetings in December. “Well, they’re going somewhere else other than Glendale, but it’s in the greater Phoenix area.”

The Coyotes released a statement after the PHNX Sports report.

“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.”

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  • Excellent news. It would be a tragedy to lose this team.
    I don’t know if I’ll ever go to any more games but for 7 of the 9 or 10 years that I’ve been a STH, I liked it so much that I was first in line every home game.
    I arrived at every home game by 1:30 or 2pm.
    It was great running in to 2 or 3 others every game that felt the same way.
    I just couldn’t wait to get there. I couldn’t believe everyone in this city didn’t feel the same.
    I dedicated my life to another sport but as far as spectating goes in sports, nothing compares with the excitement I witnessed in first Jobing.com then GRA ( except maybe sectional championship high school basketball in Indiana)
    I sure hope it works out this time and that the hockey fans in the valley won’t blow it ever again.
    Lets go YOTES! Thanks Craig.

  • By team areas, I assume you mean locker rooms. So presumably they’ll need to upgrade another portion of the arena or get an extension added as they cannot share with ASU. Any thought on how steadfast that rule is with the NCAA?

    Additionally, looks like ASU’s own site indicates it is set to be completed by December which obviously doesn’t align. Is the main playing/spectating part going to be completed on time with perhaps the community ice portion to be finished by the later time? I know you did a tour not too long ago, so perhaps you have some insight on which stages will be ready to go.

    • That NCAA rule is set in stone.

      My understanding is that the main arena will be ready by October. It should be noted that ASU scheduled it season to begin on the road in case there were delays. The NHL/Coyotes could always do the same, like the Islanders did this season.

  • This is the biggest embarrassment to date for the Coyotes. No one will take them on while they find their new home because they know they either won’t get paid or have to wait until another article by Katie Strang comes out. Assuming Glendale truly shut the door, never thought they would want to leave Glendale since they could have put a Sportsbook in arena or at Westgate right?

    • Apparently ASU doesn’t seem to mind.

      https://twitter.com/CraigSMorgan/status/1486855070322884609?s=20

      Glendale does not want another arena to compete with. They wanted the Coyotes to sign up for 12-15 more years or not at all.

      The problem with GRA is simply there’s not enough revenue sources outside of ticket sales and concessions to make it. That’s true for EVERY pro sports franchise out there. The day Steve Ellman split with Jerry Moyes and separated the Coyotes from Westgate this was going to be the end result.

    • Of course they want to leave Glendale. The location of the arena has been a problem since the day Scottsdale said no to the redevelopment of Los Arcos Mall and Steve Allman convinced a sleepy suburb to give him a sweetheart deal so he could benefit his true passion (hint hint it wasn’t the Coyotes). Glendale was banking on the West Valley continuing it’s unmitigated growth and hoping for an influx of corporate headquarters, neither of which happened. The housing market crashed, Glendale remained a bedroom community, and the majority (I believe CM stated it was in the 75% range) of their premium ticket and suite holders were located in the East Valley. Those premium sales and attendance are what make the team money. Little old me eating before or after them game, purchasing only a drink during the game, and sitting in the last row of the upper deck does nothing for their bottom line. They need deep pockets dropping copious amounts of coin every night. And therein lies the problem. Most people in the East Valley are not going to sit in traffic for nearly 2 hours to see the Yotes play the Blue Jackets on a weeknight. Even if the tickets are free it still isn’t worth it to get off of work at 5 (or leave work early), drive home, pick up the family, drive to the arena (missing most if not all of the first period), and stay for 1.5 period before you have to leave to get the kids home and in bed because they have school in the morning and if you leave at the end of the game, which is usually around 10pm, you’re not getting home until 11pm at the earliest if not closer to midnight depending on the efficiency of the parking lot attendants.

      Being downtown or in the East Valley is the Coyotes only chance of staying in AZ. When they were downtown they always drew a good crowd regardless of the day of the week or opponent and despite the physical constraints of the arena.

    • They always wanted to leave Glendale. The economics of that market simply don’t work. That economic reality has been vetted over and over again. The same issues exist in Florida and Ottawa.

      As for your assertion that no one will take them on, they are only one vote short of getting approval from the Tempe City Council. With ASU and president Michael Crow now backing them, that could easily change.

      • I meant as a temporary home. No one wants the headaches and hassle of a bad tenant.

        They will own their building so they are essentially answering to themselves.

        As you said on Marek’s show they didn’t see that Glendale was serious until it was too late. Coliseum would have made more sense but with 3-5k in attendance each night how much will tickets be to make up revenue? Average ticket price will need to be much higher and will people pay that to see a tanking team??

        Curious if there will be any issues with sponsors at a college campus (gambling, etc?)

        We can still support the team but at least agree it’s a sh*t show of an ownership group which is something for what came before.

        As for travel and traffic. Phoenix metro lack of wide ranging public transit is a issue. Going to games back East and traveling 45-50 miles was more doable via bus or train. Not as bad when you can nap on the way home.

  • While an arena that small isn’t ideal, I see a lot of benefits to this approach. In addition to some you listed, Craig, I really like the idea of building a fun, energetic (crazy?) atmosphere. Almost a reboot based on a promising future (assuming Tempe arena/development plans move forward) and exciting new ideas. Better than languishing in a half empty barn – it’s hard to escape some of the pessimism.

    • I agree. If you can get past the considerable issues with playing in such a small venue and just focus on the atmosphere, it will be really cool.

      Have I mentioned that it’s a 25-minute commute from my hour; not 55?

  • This is exciting. All the jokes about the 5,000 seats and attendance are to be expected, but who cares. They will finally be playing in Tempe closer to fans (myself included) and it will be a lot of fun to watch them. Hopefully this also sends a strong message to the City of Tempe that they are committed to making things work at Rio Salado and Priest.

    just a minor typo – Bill Daly is not the NHL commissioner

  • Craig, you made my day. I don’t believe anything until you say it. I agree with your reasons for this being a good idea. I live in Chandler but am a STH to the Roadrunners because travel time is less than going to Glendale most nights. However, the best part is the proximity to the game and the camaraderie that develops between the spectators. The intimacy of that venue will carry over to the new arena. I suspect week day games will result in resale of STM tickets that will allow the rest of us to get an opportunity to experience this atmosphere with some crossover to some ASU games with Josh Doan. On a selfish note, I love weekday games that don’t conflict with Roadrunner games so I can support my boys as they progress from AHL to NHL players. Reworking my entertainment budget as you read.

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