Mesa mayor ‘encouraging’ Coyotes to look at private sites for new arena

May 22, 2023, 12:43 PM | Updated: 12:44 pm

Mesa Mayor John Giles, Tempe mayor Corey Woods...

Mesa Mayor John Giles poses with Tempe Mayor Corey Woods. Woods' city voted against a new Coyotes arena, while Giles' city could be next to try to land the NHL team. (Via John Giles / Facebook)

(Via John Giles / Facebook)

Mesa Mayor John Giles said he encourages the Arizona Coyotes to see what his city has to offer in terms of available land to build a new pro hockey arena and remain in the state.

Furthermore, Giles told KTAR News 92.3 on Monday that he sees avenues where the Coyotes could find a new home without requiring a public vote, such as the one that was shot down by Tempe residents on Tuesday.

“I personally have not spoken with the Coyotes. I have been encouraging to the Coyotes telling them I think Mesa makes a lot of sense for them,” Giles told KTAR News 92.3 on Monday. “One of the things that distinguishes Mesa I think from the Tempe proposal or from their previous home in Glendale, we don’t have a piece of city, publicly owned property that I think is a candidate for hosting an arena.

“We do have a few privately owned properties, including Fiesta Mall, that I think would be ideal — that are literally at the intersection of multiple freeways and geographically in the middle of the Valley and have the infrastructure, and I would have a difficult time imagining a better location for a facility like an arena.”

Giles pointed out that Mesa might not require a public vote because its available land is private.

A Mesa city charter says a vote is necessary for public land or if the city contributes $1.5 million or more to “any amphitheater, sports complex, cultural or entertainment facility, arena, stadium, convention facility, or multi-purpose facility.”

“But again, that’s not the scenario that I see as being likely in Mesa. I think it’d be a privately owned facility on privately owned land,” Giles said.

The Coyotes began searching for a fallback option to build a new arena in the state after Tempe voters last Tuesday struck down plans to build an entertainment district there. Mesa’s old Fiesta Mall footprint is among the land the team has inquired about, CBS5’s and 3TV’s Dennis Welch reported Thursday.

The city of Mesa released the following statement after Welch reported that the Coyotes on Wednesday reached out about the land.

“For years Mesa has supported the redevelopment of the Fiesta District,” the city said. “Aside from being a key site for the District, Fiesta Mall is one of the most attractive pieces of urban real estate in the Valley today. It is massive, adjacent to three major highways and only 20 minutes from two major airports.

“We look forward to working with the property owner on proposals to bring diverse uses to the Fiesta Mall site and long-term sustainable and vibrant economic activity to the Fiesta District.”

Moving to Mesa would keep the Coyotes on the right timeline to build a new arena because it would not require the year-or-so of land remediation needed in Tempe’s now-squashed project, which included landfill cleanup.

Fiesta Mall opened in 1979 and sits at the intersection of the US 60 and Alma School Road, a location that is easily accessible and in a relatively central, East Valley location.

The mall has been vacant in the past several years, with a Dillard’s Clearance Center being the last retail store to close down there in 2019.

The Coyotes on Wednesday confirmed they expect to play at Mullett Arena, which is operated by Arizona State University, in the 2023-24 season.

The NHL team in 2022-23 played its first season at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest home. 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.

Giles said Monday he hoped the Coyotes would remain in the Valley.

“Mesa could become a hockey town,” he said. “I’m born and raised in Mesa and I don’t remember playing a lot of hockey as a kid, but I think that’s part of the Valley, (it) has really become a world-class destination.

“I think it’s important. Hockey is important to a lot of people in Arizona. A surprisingly large number of families spend their lives (that) are centered around getting their kids to and from hockey practices. Yeah, I think it’s fun to see how hockey has been embraced in the Valley and I think it’d be a shame if we lost the Coyotes.”

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