Nearly three months after the Arizona Board of Regents approved a plan that will allow the Coyotes to use Arizona State University’s new multi-purpose arena as their temporary home, that deal is complete. ASU CFO Morgan Olsen confirmed the news on Wednesday evening.
“I don’t think there were really any issues with respect to terms,” Olsen said. “It was just lots of lawyers involved and doing what they do and it takes a long time.”
The deal allows the Coyotes to play the next three seasons at the arena, with an option for a fourth year if the building of their permanent home takes longer than hoped. The Coyotes are still awaiting word from the Tempe City Council on their proposed arena and entertainment district on the south bank of the Salt River. The council has asked the Coyotes to provide clarification on a number of undisclosed issues after viewing impact studies, projections and detailed information related to the project for the first time in executive session last month.
In order to play at ASU’s multi-purpose arena, which will also house the ASU men’s hockey team, wrestling and gymnastics, the Coyotes had to build their own team spaces because NCAA compliance rules do not allow them to use ASU’s team spaces. Construction on that $19.7 million annex at the northeast corner of the facility is well under way, Olsen said, with excavation complete, horizontal concrete poured and the frame taking shape.
There has been rampant speculation that the Coyotes would have to start the 2022-23 season on the road until those team areas are complete, much like the New York Islanders did for the first 13 games of the 2021-22 season while UBS Arena was still under construction. The annex is not scheduled for completion until December, but Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez told PHNX Sports in March that there was an alternative that would allow the Coyotes to play home games when the NHL season begins.
“There is an entire community ice rink (attached to the facility) that we are looking at utilizing and creating the necessary team spaces that are up to NHL standards,” Gutierrez said.
That option was confirmed both by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and by Olsen. Olsen deferred to Gutierrez on details for that set-up, but he said that the university is “flexible” and will allow the Coyotes to set up temporary team spaces in the community rink so long as the temporary spaces do not exist “for a long period of time.”
The NHL schedule will not be released until this summer, and there are generally multiple iterations of that schedule that go through the approval process before being finalized, but a league source said that in one iteration, there were three Coyotes regular-season home games scheduled for October at ASU; the same number of home games that the Coyotes played at Gila River Arena this season (with six road games).
While there has been speculation that the Coyotes could pull out of this deal if the city council does not approve their permanent arena, Olsen said that there is nothing in this deal that addresses that scenario; no opt-out clause.
As previously reported, the Coyotes agreed to pay all of the costs up front for the annex as well as interior improvements to get the arena up to NHL standards. While ASU will retain the rights to all parking revenue, naming rights and sponsorship revenue for the arena, Olsen said that the Coyotes will be licensing the facility so the gate receipts will be theirs, the merchandise sales will be theirs and they’ll have a share of concession revenue and game-day sponsorships.
Gutierrez said that the Coyotes are exploring additional avenues for generating more revenue.
“We’re looking at emphasizing branded content for example, which I think will be significant, and event activations, and there are other opportunities within the bowl that you can’t do (at Gila River Arena),” he said. “For example, we’re going to have more fan activation for every single game, as opposed to just episodic or event driven. Think T-shirts, think hats, think Howl Towels, think foam fingers, think those types of things, and all those would be branded. We are very excited about the incredible atmosphere that we can create and that we know our sponsors and partners will love to be a part of.
“We are allowed to brand and sponsor the building during game days, and are exploring innovative ways to do that. I don’t think you’ve gone to Crypto.com Arena (in Los Angeles), but they didn’t change out the Staples signs, the physical signs. They have affixed lights to the walls. That’s an opportunity that we are also exploring because the requirement is that anything we do on the day of the game has to be temporary. So there is an opportunity to wrap the building and wrap the interior. It just has to be temporary. We feel very confident that there’s opportunities that would create significant value for our partners, and an incredible atmosphere for our fans.”
Olsen said that the details are still in the works, but Coyotes premium season ticket holders will likely be granted the privilege of parking in the adjacent parking structure to the south of the arena, across from Desert Financial Arena. ASU will also use myriad lots in the area to accommodate fans.
“I’ve reminded people a couple times when they started to get anxious about traffic that it’s about half of what we draw for a basketball game,” Olsen said. “We’ve done this a few times. It’s not a big deal. We’re excited to have them there and hope they do well.”
Seating capacity for the NHL games will be 4,700, and Gutierrez said that the team is working with ASU student groups such as the 942 Crew to block off a section of tickets at a significantly lower price point so that students can attend games. The Coyotes are also working with nearby hotels and other spaces near the arena where they might provide additional viewing options in a group setting.
As for the design at center ice, Olsen would not reveal the exact plans, but he did offer this: “You should anticipate that both team identities will be reflected.”