With all the fervour over the Arizona Coyotes arena situation caused by the two parties not agreeing, it is the fans of the franchise who are affected the most. Season ticket holders gave up their hard-earned money to support the team no matter what. Without taking sides, there is much blame to go around concerning how both parties have behaved. In the end, however this turns out, the team will lose fan support.
Since this happened, this writer who has been a fan since their arrival here in Phoenix has read many comments on the topic of the arena and the franchise in general. Many fans are just plain fed up with the back and forth. The name-calling… and the way each party is treating the other. Has the team had ownership issues in the past? Yes. Have they now a wealthy owner who is an accomplished businessman? Yes. Has the City of Glendale acted in a professional manner with regards to leasing Gila River Arena? Questionable.
Arizona Coyotes Arena Issue Will Cause Wavering Fan Support
Let’s face it, hockey fans want to see hockey games. If all holds true and the City of Glendale does indeed evict the hockey team again, how are fans to react to that? Many say even if they do move to Tempe, the way things have been handled questions their veracity to run a team or an arena. Alex Meruelo is in the middle of a storm and really doesn’t have many options. One thing that this writer noticed from fan’s comments on articles written about this is many are misinformed or uneducated about the facts. It seems that many think because of the turn of events that the Coyotes will automatically relocate out of Arizona.
Why Not Play At Footprint Center?
The decision by the Glendale city officials seems to be final; the team needs to find another place to play NHL hockey. It just isn’t that easy. They need to find somewhere that they can put on games for a two-three year period while waiting for the Tempe site location to become available. Many say, why not play at the newly renamed Footpoint Center where the Suns play NBA basketball? That sounds reasonable, but the building isn’t configured for NHL hockey. Ice-making equipment is there since they put on ice skating events. The problem would be about one-third of the seats would be in a blocked vision area. Asking fans to pay NHL ticket prices and then be required to watch the big screen on one end of the ice is a bit much… even if the prices are reduced.
Then, Suns owner Robert Sarver is not at all interested in sharing the Suns’ arena with another tenant. That feeling may have accelerated with the Suns’ recent success by going to the NBA Final.
The ‘Madhouse on McDowell’ Is a Remote Possibility
The other option could be Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the Arizona State fairgrounds. This location is not bad, near downtown, yet not way out west as where Gila River Arena is located. The problem with this building is it is 55 years old and only holds 13,730 for hockey. Since the Coyotes may only average that attendance level per game that wouldn’t be a severe issue. What is difficult and expensive to overcome is that the ice-making equipment would need to be replaced. The last hockey that was played there was when the Phoenix Mustangs of the West Coast Hockey League played there in 2000-01.
The New York Islanders played in Uniondale’s Nassau Coliseum which seats 13,900 for NHL hockey. They used it while their new home at Belmont Park was being built.
The building is better known as the home of the Phoenix Suns from 1968-1992. With some much-needed upgrading to meet NHL standards, the building could do in a pinch. There are no luxury suites, and owner Meruelo may not like that option as they generate much-needed revenue.
ASU Is Another Remote Possibility
The new arena is set to open in December of 2022. It will only seat 5,000 for hockey but will have 20 luxury suites. Due to the limited seating capacity, it is doubtful that the NHL will allow the Coyotes to play there. It must be noted that the Coyotes and ASU have had a compatible relationship. In 2016 they almost agreed upon a partnership for a 16,000 seat arena to be shared by both parties. Then, in February of 2017, ASU decided to back out of a shared arena concept with the Arizona Coyotes. Now, in retrospect, that decision has huge ramifications for the Desert Dogs’ future in the Valley.
In the End, It’s the Fans Who Lose Out
The dedicated fans of the Arizona Coyotes have endured endless drama and negative publicity due to countless rumours of the club relocating. Whether they stay at in Glendale with a new short-term lease agreement or not, the fans are the ones losing out here. The franchise has been the victim of rumours that they would be moving to Quebec City, Houston, or Kansas City. It has to affect the players and the staff of the franchise. Someone needs to come to the rescue here. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. and if Gary Bettman or Alex Meruelo or Kevin Phelps can’t figure this out then the area may be without NHL hockey.
Who Will Step Up?
Bettman has vowed that the Coyotes need to move from Gila River Arena for a permanent better-located home. His input and influence are needed here to keep the team in the Phoenix area. Alex Meruelo is a billionaire and if it means fixing up Veterans Memorial Coliseum to keep his team here, he needs to step up. Meruelo doesn’t want to lose out on the soon-to-be legalized sports gambling revenue. Kevin Phelps remained adamant that the city of Glendale will not back down from their decision to end the lease in June of 2022.
He must be living in a fantasy world if he thinks he will be able to get 20 events averaging 10,000 or more fans to come to Gila River Arena. He is in direct competition with Footprint Center which is downtown and not way out in Glendale. Fans of the Coyotes have already voiced their opinion about the commute, and that is why the team’s attendance has faltered. If the Arizona Coyotes arena issue forces them out of GRA, good luck to Phelps and Glendale including the businesses in Westgate, they will need it.
NHL Hockey Belongs in Arizona
This team has had its struggles on and off the ice. But there are NHL fans here who want to see the game. The new Tempe arena is an exciting concept, but at this point, it is just that… a concept. If it can be worked out that the team can play elsewhere until the new facility is built, it is a win for Arizona Coyotes’ fans or fans of the NHL in general. Then, the Arizona Coyotes arena issue will be solved once and for all.
NHL Hockey belongs in Arizona!