Saturday, 4 February 2017

More Arena Uncertainty

The more things change, the more they stay the same in the NHL. For years, there was uncertainty as to whether there would be a NHL team in the state of Arizona. The team moved from Phoenix to Glendale, there were multiple owners, there was a bankruptcy, and constant rumours of the team moving to some new city surrounded the team. It appeared that was all behind the team after new ownership took over and invested serious money into the team as well as negotiating a deal to move into an arena in Tempe where they would share the facility with Arizona State. And then today happened.

Back in November, the Coyotes announced a plan to build a 16,000-seat arena near the Arizona State campus by 2019. It was big news for the NHL club as well as the university as there new $400 million facility would see 50% of the costs paid for by the Coyotes while the remaining funds would be generated through public and private funding.

On Friday evening, however, Arizona State University got cold feet, issuing a statement that essentially killed the partnership before ground had even been broken.
"In November 2016, Catellus Development Corporation, the Master Developer for the Arizona State University Athletics Facilities District, entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Arizona Coyotes holding company, IceArizona holdings, to produce a development plan for approximately 58 acres in the district that would include a new arena and commercial development project.

"ASU has no intention of proceeding to sign a development agreement or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes."
Yikes. If there's two sides to every story, a statement from the Coyotes would go a long way in confirming that the arena deal was no more. Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc issued a statement that indicated that the dream of a rink in Tempe was dead.
"Unfortunately, it appears the ASU deal will not being moving forward."

"We will continue to explore other options that will ensure a successful future for the team and our fans. We're a determined bunch — on the ice and off the ice. We intend to do everything we can to keep NHL hockey here in Arizona."
According to The Arizona Republic, the arena deal was to create an entirely new district for Arizona State University and the Arizona Coyotes to ai din generating revenue for both parties as well as the city itself.
Legislation introduced this week by Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, would have created a 28-acre "community engagement district" with ice rinks for the Coyotes, as well as ASU's hockey teams, within the confines of ASU's Athletic Facilities District.

The facilities district covers 330 acres south of Tempe Town Lake that ASU is working to transform into an athletic, commercial and residential district.
The lease at Gila River Arena expires at the end of the 2018-19 season for the Coyotes, and it appears things are up in the air once more regarding the team's long-term future. LeBlanc has stated that there are still options for the Coyotes when it comes to arena deals, but the options are becoming fewer as the days press on. Reportedly, Scottsdale is still in play for the Coyotes, but the options to move into or near downtown Phoenix seem to have evaporated.

Honestly, this drama in the desert was supposed to be long over after the NHL sold the team to LeBlanc and his investors. Instead, it carries on today and for what appears to be the near future. At some point, hockey in Arizona simply doesn't make sense any longer when it comes to the amount of money people have lost and the constant struggles faced by the team. At some point, someone will tire of the headaches.

I don't know what Arizona State plans to do with the Sun Devils, but their lease with their current arena ends next season. It seems they may have a better working relationship with their rink than what the Coyotes have with Glendale. The NHL won't meddle when it comes to the Coyotes' problems in their rink, but you have to wonder if Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors might want to talk about this quietly before the lease at Gila River Arena runs out.

With the New York Islanders in an arena dispute with Barclays and now the Coyotes stuck back in their arena purgatory, you have to wonder what will happen if either or both teams are forced to abandon their current homes. Time will reveal what happens, but this uncertainty in two major markets for the NHL can't have anyone happy.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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