Arizona Coyotes Arena Project in Tempe in Doubt

Arizona Coyotes Tempe arena

Arizona Coyotes insider Craig Morgan reported Sunday that the team’s arena proposal in Tempe is now in doubt. The $1.7 billion arena and entertainment district may be in jeopardy without having approval from the city council. Morgan reported that from his sources there are three yes votes, two no votes, and two voters who are currently undecided but leaning towards a no vote. This does not bode well for the team that just can’t seem to catch a break.

No Arizona Coyotes Arena Means Unknown Future

Without a place to play, no matter how the Tempe project goes, this has to haunt the players, staff and fans. Owner Alex Meruelo has stayed silent on this topic, however, he did announce an alliance with Sahara Bets this week.

Meruelo Gaming LLC is an affiliate of the SAHARA Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. In other words, Meruelo is in line to be making some serious revenue from the passage of sports gambling in Arizona. But what if his Arizona Coyotes arena project doesn’t happen? That seems to be a real possibility without knowing how the city council will vote whenever that may happen.

A source close to Morgan stated, “The Coyotes certainly aren’t doing themselves any favors with the negative news stories,” one source said. “I would imagine if another negative story comes up on (owner Alex) Meruelo or the organization or their business practices, it probably will die. Those stories hurt tremendously.” 

Could this be the final curtain for a troubled franchise with a history of poor ownership? Perhaps for the Tempe site, but another alternative is still possible. The Arizona Coyotes could pursue a deal with the nearby Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. Of course, that has been rumoured for years, and no action has taken place for it to come to fruition. The Tempe site would create jobs and revenue for the city including sales tax. That could be what ironically defeats the whole project. Meruelo failed to pay back taxes and rent for playing NHL games at Gila River Arena. That in turn caused the franchise grief and another round of relocation rumours.

Meruelo’s Silence May Not Be Golden

The entire project is scheduled to be privately financed. Thus far there has been no word as to who some of the investors are; or even if their finances are worthy of such a project. By Meruelo being so silent, especially after the back bills not being paid on time, it seems he is shooting himself in the foot. He is not a stupid businessman, yet by his actions (or inactions) he has created doubt as to his credibility by not paying his bills. Why should Tempe or any other community agree to build his arena on their land trust a man who has a black mark on his reputation? While Tempe or any other city may covet the project to bring tourists and local fans to games and use the hotel, why should they risk not getting paid the money due to them?

There May Be Some Hope

One source of Morgan (he does have lots of sources, huh?) stated that if the team were to pick up the tab for the entire land remediation of $70 million instead of $40 million, that may sway the vote in their favour. Let’s face it, when the Coyotes get involved with politicians on a city council, it usually doesn’t end well for them. While they staved off being relocated in 2013 with a large fan turnout in support of keeping the team in Arizona, that hasn’t been shown yet with the Arizona Coyotes Tempe arena project.

This Could End Ugly

While Meruelo and his staff have boosted that they aren’t moving out of Arizona, it may take some convincing if this arena doesn’t get built. Even if it does, where are they planning on playing NHL hockey in the interim? Chase Field? Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum? No word from the ownership on that yet, but of course, they have plenty of time to decide that, right?

Not really, the 2022-23 season starts in about 10 months. Playing hockey in a baseball stadium, while not ideal could work. Seeing Meruelo fork over $25-$40 million to renovate (with a capital ‘R’) Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum seems unlikely. This is a man who owed the city of Glendale $1.5 million and was almost evicted from a hockey arena.

Would you trust him?

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