It had been a minute since the NHL had Arizona Coyotes arena drama, but it’s time to reset the clock.
Arizona State University announced on Friday night that it has “no intention of proceeding to sign a development agreement or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes,” ending their partnership on a potential new arena for the team in Tempe.
In November, a master developer hired by ASU to develop a 330-acre athletic district south of Tempe Town Lake entered into negotiations with the Coyotes to produce a plan for 58 acres for a new home for the Coyotes and an attached arena for use by Sun Devil Athletics.
Earlier this week, legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, would have created a funding mechanism to build the rinks for the Coyotes and ASU. The legislation would create a 28-acre “community engagement district” that would house ice rinks for the Coyotes, as well as ASU’s hockey teams within the confines of ASU’s Athletic Stadium District. Worsley said he agreed to sponsor the legislation in order to keep the Coyotes from leaving the state, and because the financing portion of the deal would not sap the state’s general fund of existing revenue.
There was talk that a news conference on Monday would have featured political opposition to that deal. But ASU spiked it on Friday.
CEO Anthony LeBlanc released a statement on Friday night, via News 12:
“While a new Coyotes arena built with ASU would have been a big winner for our fans, taxpayers, the university and our team, the Coyotes had and continue to have a number of options for a new arena. Unfortunately, it appears the ASU deal will not [be] moving forward.
“Nevertheless, the Coyotes are committed to the Valley for the long term, and we will continue to explore other options that will ensure a successful future for the team and our fans. We’re a determined bunch – on the ice and off the ice. We intend to do everything we can to keep NHL hockey here in Arizona.”
Well, guess it was a bit presumptuous that we wouldn’t have to read another one of those statements again…
In Nov. 2016, Puck Daddy asked LeBlanc if the deal could fall through:
Is there a chance this could fall through? Are there backup plans? Is there a risk with this?
Everything has risk until – I’m a lifelong sales person and nothing is ever done until it’s done. But we’re not focused on that. We feel very strongly that this will move towards the finish line. We have a lot of work to do but I’m sure people have already seen that we’ve been pretty extensive in our planning that’s required a fair amount of money to date and now we’re getting into more expensive soft costs before the building starts being constructed and we’re confident it will get done. We don’t have backup plans. We’re focused on this and we have an exclusive arrangement with this site so we feel very confident that this will end well.
In fairness, they probably thought this season would end well, too.
So now what? Are there other arena options? A new arena for the Phoenix Suns won’t necessarily involve the Coyotes, and if it did, they would be at a revenue disadvantage. But it still could be an option.
Obviously Glendale remains an option so long as they are essentially the only available building in town. Any negotiation with the City and their arena manager will inevitably be made from a position of weakness however, due to the lack of alternatives and the sunk costs already invested in the Valley.
One other intriguing option came up shortly before the Coyotes announced the potential partnership with Arizona State last June. Reportedly, a group near Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale attempted to pitch a privately funded arena project to the Coyotes. The reception even then from the Coyotes was chilly, as Scottsdale doesn’t quite solve the central location problem Arizona was hoping to fix with a location in Downtown Phoenix or Tempe. Perhaps that possibly becomes the best of several unappealing options, though like in Glendale, the Scottsdale Pavilions group would have quite a bit of leverage in hammering out any agreement, assuming the possibility even still exists.
The good news for the Coyotes is that, for now, they have one of the two vital components that Gary Bettman looks at when considering relocation: Committed ownership. The bad news is that, increasingly, they don’t have the other, which is a viable place to play.
The worst news is that Quebec City didn’t get an expansion team, and the speculation has always been that’s to keep it as a back-pocket relocation option.
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