The tenure of the Arizona Coyotes in the desert has been a rather tumultuous one, marred by consistent uncertainty regarding ownership, venues, and fan support.
Could it all soon be coming to an end?
The City of Glendale, home of Gila River Arena where the Coyotes have played since December of 2003, has officially ended negotiating with the team after years of trying to find an arena deal that fits the plans of both parties. This means that the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season is likely the final year they'll be playing in the venue.
"We are thankful to the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes for being part of the Glendale community for the past 18 years,” said Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps in a statement. “The decision to not 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 nearby city of Tempe, a 30-minute drive from the current home of the Coyotes, put out a request for proposals to gauge potential interest in building a sports and entertainment district, and the team was said to be interested. However, construction on a new venue in time for the 2022-23 NHL season would almost certainly not be completed in time, even if it were to start immediately.
Phelps said that he believed the Coyotes "never felt at home" in Glendale, where they moved in 2003 after playing in downtown Phoenix for the first 7 1/2 years of their existence following their departure from Winnipeg. And according to the city-commissioned report, he stated that bringing additional events to the venue would be more lucrative than a professional sports team. The Westgate complex has several planned additions in the works, including a water park and mini-golf course.
“For us at this point in time, with all the momentum Westgate has … not having the Coyotes as a tenant was to our advantage,” he said.
There's no telling at this point where the Coyotes will play starting in 2022. Quebec City has been itching to get hockey back since the Nordiques departed for Denver in 1995, while Houston has also expressed interest in professional hockey.