ARIZONA COYOTES

Auction eyed for Arizona Coyotes arena canceled by Arizona State Land Department

Jun 21, 2024, 1:04 PM | Updated: 3:38 pm

Gary Bettman and Alex Mereulo speaking with Media in a press conference....

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 19: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (R) speaks alongside Coyotes Chairman and Governor Alex Meruelo during a press conference at Hyatt Regency Phoenix on April 19, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The land auction that the Arizona Coyotes expected to win Thursday as the first step toward building a new arena has been canceled, according to the Arizona State Land Department.

The news six days out from the planned auction greatly deflates owner Alex Meruelo’s abilities to find a new home to restart an NHL franchise in Arizona after selling the team to a Utah group in April. He agreed with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on a deal that would allow him to restart it within five years.

“After much consideration, the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) has determined that it is in the best interest of the Trust to cancel the auction and reorder the steps,” the ASLD said in a release. “ASLD recently confirmed that the proposed arena use will require a Special Use Permit, and as a result we are requesting that the applicant file for and receive a Special Use Permit prior to the auction. This affords the applicant and ASLD certainty that the applicant can build what it intends to build for its anchor tenant. It is not uncommon for ASLD to require applicants to secure zoning/use permits prior to auction.

“We understand the delay in an auction is a disappointment for our applicant and members of the public, but the change in timing is the prudent decision for the Trust. ASLD remains open to
working with our applicant to bring the land forward to auction in the future if a special use permit is received.”

The ASLD listed the applicant as Miracle Development, LLC, which is the Coyotes’ development.

As of Friday, only Miracle Development, LLC, was registered to bid on the tract of land on the northwest corner of the Loop 101 and Scottsdale Road near Desert Ridge Marketplace, according to PHNX Sports.

The Arizona State Land Department in April listed the auction for the land. Weeks later, it came to light that the NHL franchise’s hockey operations, including its roster and front office, were being sold to a group owned by Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.

“My family and I are committed to winning this land auction and building a transformative entertainment district that will not require taxpayer funding for the first time in Arizona history,” Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo said in a statement released after the notice was posted. “We will buy this land, build this development and finish a project that will incur the cost of more than $100 million in infrastructure improvements with no burden placed on taxpayers.

“We are excited that the proceeds from our land auction bid will also generate revenues to fund local education throughout the state of Arizona and support the communities that have been so loyal to the Coyotes for many years,” Meruelo added. “Arizona is our home and an incredible market where the Coyotes belong. This district would provide a beautiful home for the Arizona Coyotes for decades to come. Our loyal fans deserve this vibrant gathering place that would serve as a landmark to create lifelong memories.”

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported before the listing was posted that Meruelo has spoken to potential buyers, both inside and outside of Arizona, to gauge their interest in purchasing the NHL franchise.

A March 14 state land department meeting cleared that land to be auctioned, according to the meeting agenda that lists the Coyotes’ Miracle Development LLC. The auction needed to be publicly listed for at least 10 weeks before it takes place.

The Arizona State Land Department Board of Appeals unanimously approved the $68.5 million appraisal of the 95 acres. Bidding in an auction would start at that amount and would need to be made in $100,000 increments at minimum.

Included with the auction posting was a letter from the city of Phoenix with public infrastructure obligations to a potential developer, which includes zoning information, along with fire, water and traffic recommendations. The estimated cost for those additions is $80 million, according to the auction notice.

The Coyotes said in their statement 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.

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