Coyotes shed light on Tempe arena plans

The Arizona Coyotes NHL ice hockey team has revealed plans for a $1.7bn (£1.2bn/€1.4bn) development in the city of Tempe, with the wide-ranging project to be anchored by an arena that would seat around 16,000 fans.

The complex would also include a 1,500-seat theatre space, offices, an apartment building, a hotel and shops. The team has released renderings of the proposed entertainment district to the Arizona Republic newspaper.

The project would be largely funded by private investors, although the Coyotes will look to receive a portion of city sales tax revenues generated by the site to contribute towards $200m in additional costs.

The project would be built on land south of the Salt River that has previously been used as a dump. Coyotes president and chief executive Xavier Gutierrez told the Arizona Republic that team owner Alex Meruelo is eyeing a number of private investors to fund the construction.

“You have an individual who is very much experienced in real estate, is experienced in investments and very experienced in looking at large opportunities where people did not see it,” Gutierrez said.

A 16,000-seat arena would mark a reduction in capacity compared to the Coyotes’ current Gila River Arena home, which seats 18,300. Gutierrez said the team would look to offset this by building a larger arena bowl to create a more intimate fan experience.

The Arizona Republic also reported that the Coyotes would look to incorporate sports betting at the new arena, along with a sensory room and aid stations for fans with disabilities. The team’s headquarters and practice rink would also form part of the wider complex.

It is hoped the Coyotes can move into the new arena by 2025 but Gutierrez said the team is “very cautious in terms of timing” as it is still waiting to be awarded a contract to proceed with the build.

The Coyotes submitted a bid for the land earlier this month. The City of Tempe announced that one submission had been received in response to its Request for Proposals (RFP) for a mixed-use project incorporating a professional sports franchise and entertainment district for two parcels of land in the city.

The Coyotes have played at Gila River Arena in Glendale since 2003, and since 2016 the team has signed a year-to-year lease with operator AEG Facilities. The team’s current lease runs until the end of the 2021-22 season and the need for the Coyotes to secure a new home intensified last month after the City of Glendale broke off talks over a new deal, stating that it wanted to focus on “larger, more impactful events and uses” for the venue.

Meruelo took over the Coyotes in June 2019 and the new 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, but plans for a move to Tempe now appear to be taking shape.

Prior to moving to Gila River Arena in 2003, the Coyotes shared a venue with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. The Coyotes were formed in 1996 after the team formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona.

Image: Kyvuh/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size