After 18 years, the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes are being evicted from Glendale’s Gila River Arena.
“With an increased focus on larger, more impactful events and uses of the city-owned arena, the city of Glendale has chosen to not renew the operating agreement for the Arizona Coyotes beyond the coming 2021-22 season,” the statement read.
“We are thankful to the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes for being part of the Glendale community for the past 18 years,” Glendale city manager Kevin Phelps said in a statement. “The decision not to renew the operating agreement with the Coyotes was not made overnight or in a vacuum. We carefully weighed input from key stakeholders, our expert economist, our arena management firm, and our City Council.”
The arena, which opened its doors in 2003, is a city-owned building, and has been operating with a year-to-year lease agreement with the Coyotes since 2016 with both sides unable to come to terms on a long-term agreement. The news of Glendale giving the Coyotes the heave-ho comes with recent reporting that the Coyotes have fallen behind on their payments to the arena’s management group, with one report citing that the franchise is about $500,000 behind.
It’s considerably devastating news for the Coyotes franchise, who now need to find a new home for the 2022-23 season and beyond, and will once again prompt rumors of a potential relocation. With Seattle now having its own team, Houston and Quebec City will certainly be mentioned as options should the Coyotes have to pursue those options.
But the team, which has been owned by Alex Meruelo since July 2019, remains committed to a future in Arizona, according to team president Xavier A. Gutierrez.
“We are disappointed by today’s unilateral decision by the City of Glendale to break off negotiations on a multi-year lease extension agreement,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale. We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the City.
“Most importantly, the Coyotes are one hundred percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire Valley and, most important, our fans.”
It’s been said before that the Coyotes have had an interest in relocating to Tempe, but the team has yet to submit an arena proposal for that location, making it an unlikely (almost certainly impossible, actually) move for when they’re kicked out of Glendale at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.
Prior to their move to Glendale in 2003, the Coyotes played at America West Arena (now known as the Footprint Center) in downtown Phoenix, sharing the arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. That, or the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, which has housed countless minor-league hockey franchises since opening its doors in 1965, could be options for the Coyotes if they’re looking to stay in The Desert while a long-term home is built a la the New York Islanders’ saga prior to the eventual solution of the nearly-finished UBS Arena next to the Belmont Park race track.
But until then, expect relocation rumors from all around.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.