The continuing arena saga in the desert seems to have to come to a head. The City of Glendale who leases Gila River Arena to the Arizona Coyotes has announced that they are ending the lease agreement in June of 2022. That means the Coyotes will have no place to play NHL hockey.
With an increased focus on larger, more impactful events and uses of the city-owned arena, the city of Glendale has chosen to not renew the operating agreement for the Arizona Coyotes beyond the coming 2021-22 season.
— City of Glendale, AZ (@GlendaleAZ) August 19, 2021
Arizona Coyotes Arena Lease Will Be Terminated in June of 2022
Since the two parties in the arena lease agreement have agreed that either party may terminate the lease with its year-to-year terms, the City of Glendale has decided they will do exactly that.
“We are thankful to the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes for being part of the Glendale community for the past 18 years,” Glendale City manager Kevin Phelps said in a statement. “The decision not to 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.”
According to a report by Katie Strang of The Athletic, the decision comes after “stalled negotiations” between the city and team over a lease extension and potential renovations to the arena. But “multiple notices” of unpaid bills by the team to the city also contributed to the parting of ways.
Public records obtained by Strang show that Phelps informed the arena’s management company, ASM Global, that the team owed $1,462,792 to the arena as of July 17.
“We’ve reached that point of no return,” Phelps said in an interview with The Athletic. “There’s no wavering.”
This Time Glendale Seems Serious
The last time this happened, the two sides kissed and made up and the year-to-year arrangement was agreed upon. The Coyotes are looking into a potential move to Tempe. The city of Glendale seems to see their opportunity to get out while the timing is good. Glendale mentioned that they want to put on “larger, more impactful events”; it is uncertain if kicking out a tenant who brings about 40-50 events a year is a wise move. Certainly Gila River Arena is an attractive venue for concerts and other events. But do they compete with the Suns’ arena for events?
It doesn’t seem that the Coyotes will be able to escalate the schedule to build an east valley arena in Tempe. The land they are eyeing needs about $70 million worth of work to prepare it to even begin construction. And Tempe has stated that they have no desire to leave the property before the end of 2024. SO, in the interim, where do the Coyotes play?
The Relocation Calls Are Already Starting
So, will owner Alex Meruelo consider moving or even selling the team? It must be on the table of discussion items. Not only will the team not have a place to play NHL games, but the Coyotes must also leave all the management office space they now occupy. This has been going on for quite some time, and now things are starting to become paramount as to how to solve it. Some say, can’t the Coyotes play in the newly renamed Footprint Center where the NBA Suns play? For one thing, it is not configured for NHL hockey. Plus, the Suns owner Robert Sarver has no interest in sharing the arena.
That may have the Coyotes ownership looking for answers after promising to keep the team here in Arizona. Other cities clamoring for an NHL franchise include Quebec City, Houston, Kansas City and Portland. Will the team really move? Without a place to play and only a year to resolve it, one must consider that is a real possibility.
Stay tuned, this story is not going away!