The City of Glendale has announced it will not renew its lease agreement with the Arizona Coyotes following the 2021-22 season, ending a tumultuous 18-year relationship between the city and the team.
Though the announcement itself came as a surprise on Thursday afternoon, the ultimate end result could have been predicted for years. The Coyotes and Glendale had previously been on a year-to-year agreement, with either allowed to terminate, provided notice is given prior to Dec. 31. While the city itself stated it was set to increase its focus on “larger, more impactful events,” the team is left to find a new home in The Valley, if that’s where it is to remain beginning in 2022-23.
The Coyotes responded with a statement Thursday evening:
“We are disappointed by today’s unilateral decision by the City of Glendale to break off negotiations on a multi-year lease extension agreement,” Xavier A. Gutierrez, The Coyotes’ President and CEO said in the press release. “We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale. We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the City.”
Where Will the Coyotes End Up?
Though the news sows even more doubt among a fanbase that’s become accustomed to it over the years, the prevailing belief is that Arizona is in a good spot to remain in the Phoenix metropolitan area, especially considering they recently submitted a proposal to the City of Tempe to develop a 46-acre plot of land. In it, the city hopes to house a mixed-use sports development anchored by the club.
Though promising, the Coyotes would need to find a temporary home, considering planning, development, and construction will take years. At first glance, the most obvious option would be to potentially strike an agreement at the Footprint Center, where the team started its run in The Valley (It was America West Arena at that time). It should be noted that the stadium has not hosted a hockey team since the ECHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners folded after the 2008-09 season.
Logistically speaking, the move probably makes the most sense, considering the Arena is already home to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, and the Indoor Football League’s Arizona Rattlers. Needless to say, it can already cater to professional sport franchises.
The news likely sent a shiver down the spine of Coyotes fans, who have already been taunted by people hypothetically moving the Coyotes to Houston or Quebec City, given the team’s re-alignment to the NHL’s Central Division this year. Though certainly possible, that decision would need to be made clear relatively soon, simply for logistical purposes.
Coyotes’ Future in The Valley
Of course, any new city would also inherit the team’s well-documented financial issues, which boiled over in February after an explosive revelation that the team was past due on payments. It was ultimately reported by The Athletic that the team owed approximately $1.4 million to the arena as of July. (from ‘‘Point of no return’: Glendale to boot Coyotes from Gila River Arena after 2021-22 season,’ The Athletic, 8/19/2021)
Regardless, the Coyotes indicated on Thursday their intent to remain in Arizona.
“Most importantly, the Coyotes are one hundred percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire Valley and, most important, our fans,” Gutierrez said in the team’s release.
The team’s next steps may hinge on the proposed deal in Tempe, considering there may not be another viable option for them long term unless something can be worked out with the City of Phoenix and the Footprint Center. Until then, fans will strike a familiar pose as they wait on pins and needles to hear the future of the NHL in the desert.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.