ARIZONA COYOTES

Alex Meruelo reportedly walking away from ownership of Arizona Coyotes

Jun 24, 2024, 10:09 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2024, 10:21 am

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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)

Alex Meruelo is reportedly walking away from ownership of the Arizona Coyotes with no plans to pursue a future arena, according to PHNX’s Craig Morgan.

Coyotes staff was informed of Meruelo’s decision on Monday, according to Morgan and confirmed by Front Office Sports, which added that the owner’s son, Alex Meruelo Jr., relayed the message to about a dozen workers still employed by the dormant franchise.

This comes after the land auction that the Arizona Coyotes expected to win as the first step toward building a new arena was canceled last week. The Arizona State Land Department asked for the Coyotes to secure a special use permit before the land would be auctioned.

On Friday, the Coyotes released a statement following the news of the cancellation for the land auction they expected to win for the 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.”

In April, the franchise moved to Salt Lake City, however there was an agreement between Meruelo and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that would allow Meruelo to activate the franchise separately within five years.

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

Meruelo took over the Coyotes in 2019. The Coyotes played the past two seasons at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena and had been searching for a site to construct a new arena after it was pushed out of its former home in Glendale after the 2021-22 season. ASU and the Coyotes were under contract for the team to play there through 2024-25 with an option year the following season.

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.

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 taking 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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