Alex Meruelo officially returns the Coyotes franchise to the NHL
Zuma Press  

Alex Meruelo officially returns the Coyotes franchise to the NHL

The former owner finally gives up... and he's taking his AHL team out of Arizona.

Trevor Connors

According to a report from Craig Morgan, the #1 most credible Arizona Coyotes insider, the Coyotes area officially dead.

At least, owner Alex Meruelo version of the Arizona Coyotes are dead.

Morgan reports that Meruelo has decided to walk away from his ownership of the defunct NHL team, giving up his exclusive rights to bring an NHL team back to Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Mesa, etc. The Arizona market is now free for any potential owner to make a go of things with an expansion franchise.

From Morgan's most recent column for PHNX Sports:

Alex Meruelo is calling it quits. Multiple sources told PHNX Sports that ownership addressed Coyotes staff on Monday, telling them that they have no plans to pursue further arena options.  

The decision comes in the wake of the Arizona State Land Department’s decision to cancel an auction on Thursday. Meruelo had hoped to win that auction and purchase a 95-acre (110 gross acres) parcel of land and build an entertainment district and an arena that would house his hockey team. With that delayed indefinitely, and considerable political opposition in his path, he sees no viable options that would allow him to reactivate the franchise within the parameters set forth in the $1.2 billion sale of the team to Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.

Meruelo agreed to sell the team in late April (the sale closed on June 13) after securing an exclusive contractual right to reactivate the franchise within five years of the date of the agreement, and trigger an expansion draft if an arena was built. Reactivation would have required him to pay back the $1 billion that he received from the sale (the other $200 million was distributed to other owners as a relocation fee).

- Craig Morgan

The state of Arizona recently cancelled a land auction, stating that it was within the state's best interest to do so given the lack of public and political will for the project. Evidently you can't just plunk down a pro sports arena and an entire entertainment district without getting the proper zoning paperwork in order.

Sportico is also confirming the news:

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has told his remaining executives that he is dissolving what’s left of the NHL franchise, a source with knowledge of the situation told Sportico Tuesday. The story was first reported by local sports site PHNX Sports.

Meruelo told his staff Monday he will no longer pursue building a new arena to house the team in the Phoenix area, and that the franchise should be disbanded within a month. Meruelo will retain the minor league Roadrunners, who will now play their entire 30-game 2024-25 home schedule in Tucson, Ariz., before eventually moving to a new arena when it is completed in Reno, Nev.

- Barry M. Bloom

This entire fiasco is entirely on Meruelo for not being up front with his plans for the team.

Conspiracy Theory: This was the plan all along.

Meruelo never really cared about the Coyotes. All he wanted was the ability to own an Arizona based pro sports team so that he could legally run a sports betting book. Once it became clear that that would be an impossibility, he began divesting himself of the team while wringing as much money out of things as possible. Now he's got his billion dollars and, in his eyes, he's exhausted every opportunity to keep the team in Arizona.

In reality though Meruelo is just a grifter who used the Coyotes and its fans to make a quick buck.

I genuinely feel sorry for Coyotes fans. Arizona was not a great market for the NHL and the team should have never been put in this position. The sad reality is that an invested local owner could have made this team work. Now, all Coyotes fans can do is hope that someone else steps up. Hello, Mat Ishbia?

Source: Sportico