The Arizona Coyotes say they have identified half a dozen potential sites for a privately funded arena and entertainment district to revive what could be the franchise’s last chance to stay in the Phoenix area.
Speaking before the start of the NHL draft, President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said each of the sites is located in the eastern valley on the Highway 101 corridor that covers the cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix and Mesa. Just as important, he said each of the locations would be available for purchase, negating the need for a public referendum, which scuttled the Coyotes’ plans to build a similar complex in Tempe last month.
«We still want to put our money where our mouth is and build something that’s best in class,» said Gutierrez, whose team is set to play its second season on a 5,000-seat college track on Arizona State’s campus.
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«To all the fans, we are committed to making this happen,» he added. «We were disappointed with the vote in Tempe, but we turned the page very quickly.»
The always shaky future of the Coyotes in Arizona received another blow after voters overwhelmingly voted «no» on Tempe’s $2.3 billion entertainment district proposal. The referendum was required because the project was to be built on public land.
Gutierrez said many of the sites that were identified were previously considered but passed over, believing the Tempe location would be approved. He added that the plans prepared for the now-rejected Tempe location can be used for the other sites without major changes.
Setting a flexible schedule, Gutierrez hopes to present the league with one or more options by early 2024, which is in line with recent expectations raised by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who wants a midseason answer.
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«The NHL hasn’t given us any (deadline),» Gutierrez said. «We’ve been in constant communication with them about all the options we have. They feel very confident that we’re doing the right thing.»
The Coyotes have committed to playing in their current home for two more seasons, with an option for a fourth, which would still be within the deadline to build a new arena at a new location.
The state of the Coyotes’ arena drew criticism from newly hired NHL Players Association boss Marty Walsh, who recently called it «not good for the game.»
Gutierrez didn’t entirely disagree, while stressing that their current home has always been considered temporary.
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«I understand your comment. We share the fact that it is a temporary location and we have never tried to hide that fact,» he said.
Bettman earlier this month reaffirmed the league’s commitment to Arizona and expressed optimism about keeping the Coyotes there.
«The Arizona Coyotes are going to explore what their other options are in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and we’re going to monitor that closely,» Bettman said in Las Vegas before the start of the Stanley Cup final. «Our hope is that one of the options that are being explored and considered will come to fruition.»