ARIZONA COYOTES

NHL’s Gary Bettman ‘reasonably confident’ Coyotes will soon have arena location news

Feb 2, 2024, 2:18 PM

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman believes the Arizona Coyotes could announce a solidified arena location plan in the “next several weeks in terms of a timeline.”

That, however, came with the caveat that it was Bettman’s “guess.”

“There’s nothing new,” Bettman said during a media session Friday ahead of the NHL All-Star Game. “(Coyotes owner) Alex Meruelo is focused on one piece of property and we’re focused with him on what that timeline is, and my guess is that is something that will be addressed in the next several weeks, in terms of the timeline.”

Bettman was asked what would happen if the Coyotes couldn’t secure land in a timely fashion, and he carefully chose how to frame his confidence that an arena location would be locked in soon.

“Alex Meruelo as recently as last week told me he was certain he was going to get this done,” Bettman said. “I don’t make it a practice of contradicting owners unless I have hard facts of the contrary and I’m both hopeful that and reasonably … reasonably confident that he’s going to do what he says.”

On Friday, the Coyotes’ social media team responded to the quote from Bettman, reaffirming the goal of keeping the team in Arizona.

Reports in December indicated that the Coyotes were “finalizing the purchase” of land in the city of Phoenix with plans to build the team’s new arena there, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan had first reported the intention of the NHL team to pursue a specific plot of land in northeast Phoenix near the Scottsdale border.

Coyotes CEO and president Xavier Gutierrez told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Jan. 5 that the team was on the “precipice” of making an announcement.

He added then that the team is still on a reasonable timeline to build a new home with promises to the NHL that the Coyotes would have a land purchase done by the end of the 2023-24 season.

The NHL also wanted the team to purchase land zoned for an arena to avoid any threat of a failed public vote. Such a vote last May led the team to scrap a plan to build their arena in Tempe.

“We are on the precipice of announcing the location that we’re going to focus on,” Gutierrez said on Jan. 5. “Prior to this, we’ve been looking at multiple locations.

“Listen, we’re as anxious as anybody to move forward and to announce it. We have I think a good sense of what direction we’re going. We still envision this to be a landmark opportunity, a landmark project, a privately funded — we’re going to buy the land and build the buildings and maintain them ourselves like we said all along (before the Tempe project was rejected).”

The Coyotes believe there would be time to build an arena ground up if they remain on the timeline of locking in a location by the end of the season.

While the Tempe vote delayed them, that project would have required about a year of land remediation because it was a former landfill.

The Coyotes began playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest, in 2022-23. The NHL team and ASU have a deal for the pro team to play there this season and next with an option for 2025-26.

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