Arizona Coyotes ‘exploring’ legal options after land auction canceled

Jun 21, 2024, 3:40 PM

Alex Meruelo joins Burns & Gambo to discuss Coyotes move to Utah....

Majority Owner, Chairman and Governor, Alex Meruelo of the Arizona Coyotes speaks at an introductory press conference at Gila River Arena on August 1, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes released a statement on Friday following the news of a cancellation for a land auction they expected to win for a new arena. The Coyotes cited they will be “exploring” all of their legal options following the “unprecedented action by the state of Arizona that seriously jeopardizes the future of NHL hockey returning to the desert.”

The Coyotes’ statement also referred to the decision as “shortsighted.”

The Arizona State Land Department’s statement noted it “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.”

The impact of Friday could very well be the final blow to the franchise that had already moved its team to Salt Lake City in April. It was hinging on an agreement between owner Alex Meruelo and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that would allow Meruelo to activate the franchise separately within five years.

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.

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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Arizona Coyotes ‘exploring’ legal options after land auction canceled