It’s official: Coyotes will move from Arizona to Utah with sale to Jazz owner

Apr 18, 2024, 12:56 PM

General view outside of the Delta Center ahead of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 19,...

General view outside of the Delta Center ahead of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 19, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes officially announced the franchise was sold to Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith and will be relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Smith Entertainment Group bought the franchise for $1.2 billion, according to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo will receive $1 billion while the rest of the NHL owners will receive shares of $200 million as a relocation fee, per Gambadoro.

The NHL’s Board of Governors also approved a plan that makes the Coyotes franchise “inactive.” It gives Meruelo the right to reactivate the Coyotes franchise if he has a “fully constructed a new, state-of-the-art facility appropriate for an NHL team within five years.”

If Meruelo and Arizona are awarded an expansion franchise in the next five years, Meruelo will pay back the $1 billion in order to buy the new team.

“As everyone knows, Utah is a vibrant and thriving state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a release. “We are also delighted to welcome Ashley and Ryan Smith to the NHL family and know they will be great stewards of the game in Utah. We thank them for working so collaboratively with the league to resolve a complex situation in this unprecedented and beneficial way.

“The NHL’s belief in Arizona has never wavered. We thank Alex Meruelo for his commitment to the franchise and Arizona, and we fully support his ongoing efforts to secure a new home in the desert for the Coyotes. We also want to acknowledge the loyal hockey fans of Arizona, who have supported their team with dedication for nearly three decades while growing the game.”

As part of the deal, the Coyotes franchise will send all of its hockey assets to Utah, including the roster, all of its draft picks, the full reserve list and hockey operations department.

“I agree with commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League that it is simply unfair to continue to have our players, coaches, hockey front office and the NHL teams they compete against, spend several more years playing in an arena that is not suited for NHL hockey,” Meruelo said in a release. “But this is not the end for NHL hockey in Arizona.

“I have negotiated the right to reactivate the team within the next five years, and have retained ownership of the beloved Coyotes name, brand and logo. I remain committed to this community and to building a first-class sports arena and entertainment district without seeking financial support from the public.”

The sale comes after the team struggled to nail down an arena situation, currently playing at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena. The team’s contract with the 5,000-seat arena runs through the 2024-25 season.

What led to the sale of the Arizona Coyotes to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith?

After a May 2023 public vote failed to greenlight the team’s purchase and development of an entertainment district in Tempe, the Coyotes’ most recently targeted land for a new arena in northeast Phoenix. Owner Alex Meruelo was planning to purchase state land at an auction that was listed to go up for bidding on June 27.

The tract of land is located on the northwest corner of the Loop 101 and Scottsdale Road near Desert Ridge Marketplace.

The Coyotes said that the development would include a 17,000-seat arena and 150,000-square-foot practice facility.

It would also feature a concert venue for a live music theater for 3,000 attendees, 400,000 square feet of retail and a multi-purpose watch party plaza equipped with a supersized screen for viewing events. The district would be covered by a 170,000-square-foot canopy spanning the arena to the theater.

Meruelo still plans to bid on and win the auction on June 27 for land in northeast Phoenix, on which he hopes to build a hockey arena suitable to host an NHL team.

For now, he plans to retain ownership of the Tucson Roadrunners, the Coyotes’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, and will negotiate to be an affiliate of the new team in Salt Lake City. He will explore moving the team from Tucson to the Valley so it can play its home games at Mullett Arena in Tempe.

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It’s official: Coyotes will move from Arizona to Utah with sale to Jazz owner