New arena on the agenda as Coyotes sale approved

Alex Meruelo has been approved as the new majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes as the NHL ice hockey team seeks to secure a deal to build a new arena.

Meruelo, a 55-year-old billionaire entrepreneur, is expected to complete the deal by the end of the month. The team’s current sole owner, Andrew Barroway, will retain a five per cent minority share once the sale goes through.

The Coyotes currently play at Gila River Arena (pictured), and earlier this year the team secured its immediate future in Glendale by agreeing a new lease deal for the 2019-20 season. The team has played at the venue since 2016 and signs a year-to-year lease with operator AEG Facilities.

The Coyotes have previously been linked to a new arena and it has been suggested that the team would move to Houston, Texas if it does not get sufficient investment from the city.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said of Meruelo: “He’s committed to trying to get a new arena in the right location and making it work. He is a person of substantial means and he’s very good if you look at his career in turning around businesses and making them successful. I think this is an extraordinarily positive step for the Coyotes and their fans in Arizona.”

The NHL is hopeful that a new arena deal can be struck for the Coyotes, with the league holding a preference for a venue in the East Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Bettman said he did not want to discuss the possibility of the Coyotes moving to another market due to Meruelo’s optimism to build a new arena in Arizona.

Bettman added: “He has told us, including in his interview with the (BOG) executive committee, that he very much likes Arizona, he wants to make it work there and he’s going to try very hard for that to be the case. Obviously, the club is not viable long term in Glendale, but hopefully we don’t get to that point.”

Last year, AEG Facilities reached an agreement to continue the management of the 18,000-seat Gila River Arena until June 30, 2026.

Image: Jeff Shewan