ARIZONA COYOTES

Arizona Coyotes owner attempting to purchase Mesa land for new arena

Aug 8, 2023, 9:15 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2023, 3:14 pm

Arizona Coyotes Tempe arena...

A rendering of the Arizona Coyotes' proposed Tempe arena revealed June 2 after a 5-2 Tempe City Council vote to continue negotiations on the plans. (Courtesy Arizona Coyotes)

(Courtesy Arizona Coyotes)

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has put in a letter of intent to purchase 41 acres in Mesa for the team’s new arena, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. This would begin a process to develop the first privately funded sports and entertainment district in the state.

The Phoenix Business Journal reports that the site is located around Alma School Road and Loop 202.

Meruelo is still looking into other possible sites, with areas in the East Valley, including Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale, according to Gambadoro.

“Hearing that the Coyotes have taken a step forward in their process to find a location in Mesa or the East Valley is exciting for all those eager to see professional hockey remain in Arizona,” the city of Mesa told KTAR News 92.3. “Mesa is a desirable location, and we will continue to follow along as they consider options.” 

Meruelo’s goal is to have multiple sites under contract so there are options. This is to have a plan in place by the first quarter of 2024, so a target date is hit for a new arena’s completion in time for the start of the 2026-27 season. This would continue the Coyotes’ efforts and intention of staying in the Valley.

The Coyotes on Wednesday morning confirmed Meruelo has issued a letter of intent to purchase a land parcel in Mesa for the potential future arena.

“The Coyotes remain committed to building the first privately funded sports facility in Arizona history and ensuring the Valley as the Club’s permanent home. In addition to this property in Mesa, the Club will continue to explore other potential sites in the East Valley,” the team said in a statement. “We appreciate the tremendous support that we have received from many communities, elected officials, and community leaders who have expressed their desire to see the Coyotes remain in the Valley permanently.

“We would also like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for their steadfast support of the Club’s efforts to find a permanent arena solution, and for their recognition that Arizona is a tremendous hockey market.”

Why are the Coyotes trying to put a new arena in Mesa?

Tuesday’s developments follow the results of a Tempe public vote released in mid-May that stopped the Coyotes from moving forward and building a new arena and entertainment district.

The $2.1 billion project was expected to create a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 300,000 square feet of upscale retail, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater at Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. With that plan squashed, talks of backup plans or relocation have since swirled around the organization.

Prop 301, Prop 302 and Prop 303 all had to pass for the Coyotes to move forward and all were turned down by voters.

The franchise responded by stating it will continue with the plan of playing at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena for the 2023-24 season, as it did the season prior, while exploring new options in the Valley for a new location. The 5,000-seat Mullett Arena is by far the NHL’s smallest arena. The Coyotes and ASU have a deal for the pro team to play two more years at the arena with an option for 2025-26.

This was the conclusion of a lengthy process that included the City of Phoenix aviation department filing legal action against the city of Tempe in March. The formal complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court found Phoenix, the owners and operators of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, suing Tempe for a breach of contract, “asking the court to rescind Tempe’s recent zoning and land use changes and prohibit future residential uses in an area that the Federal Aviation Administration says is incompatible with residential development.”

The legal action regarded the more than 1.2 square-mile area that is exposed to noise levels of a high degree from the nearby airport. Both cities agreed in the 1990s to keep planes away from homes in one of the airport’s flight paths due to safety and noise, which Phoenix says is an agreement Tempe breaks with the plan to put residential units in the path.

The Coyotes along with their development firm, Bluebird Development, responded in April with a $2.3 billion claim against the city of Phoenix for damages caused by Phoenix’s legal filing on March 27.

The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.

The Coyotes began play in the state in the 1996-97 season after relocating from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they were known as the Jets.

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