The Arizona Coyotes NHL ice hockey team has confirmed that it is “highly interested” in pursuing an opportunity for a new arena in Tempe after the city issued a request for proposal to attract a professional sports franchise and developer for an entertainment district.
The arena would be based on a city-owned site totalling 46 acres at the northeast corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. The City of Tempe said it would not discuss the matter further while the RFP is open.
The Coyotes currently play at Gila River Arena in Glendale. The team has played at the venue since 2016 and signs a year-to-year lease with operator AEG Facilities.
The Coyotes were taken over by Alex Meruelo in June 2019 and the ownership team has targeted a new arena in Phoenix’s East Valley region. The Coyotes had previously been linked to a new arena and it had been suggested that the team would move to Houston, Texas if it did not get sufficient investment from Glendale, which is located northwest of Phoenix.
The prospect of a new arena in Tempe, which is located just east of Phoenix, has emerged following the RFP. The site proposed by Tempe is currently occupied by the city’s public works and compost yard.
In a statement reported by the Arizona Republic newspaper, the Coyotes confirmed that the team was “highly interested” in the proposal, adding: “Given our determination to remain in the Valley for many years to come, we are actively working to identify the best long-term home for the Coyotes, our devoted fans and this great community.”
A source told the newspaper that any new arena and commercial space in Tempe would be funded by private investors. The report added that at least one council member met with Coyotes officials in January 2020 over the prospect of a new arena in Tempe.
The deadline for the City of Tempe’s RFP has been set for August 19. No timeline has been set for when the city will examine the proposals and their respective public benefits and neighbourhood impacts, although the Arizona Republic said that Tempe could award the contract “by the end of the year”.
Tempe’s RFP states: “Any professional sports franchise or entity partnered with the franchise can respond to the RFP; it is open to all qualified organisations, locally and nationally. It is customary for cities or towns to issue RFPs in order to get specifics that can be analysed and evaluated.
“On occasion, cities like Tempe issue RFPs after being approached with unsolicited, informal proposals; the RFP is a tool to solidify and examine such proposals as well as all other responsive proposals. In this instance, the city determined that this 46 acres of land is underutilised and desired to open up this RFP process.”
The Coyotes have called Gila River Arena home since 2003, having previously shared a venue with NBA team the Phoenix Suns. The Coyotes were formed in 1996 after the team formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona.