Arizona Coyotes take big step in new arena plans

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Rendering of new arena provided by <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/ari/" data-ylk="slk:Arizona Coyotes">Arizona Coyotes</a>.
Rendering of new arena provided by Arizona Coyotes.

The Arizona Coyotes and Arizona State University are closing in on the finalization of a new arena, the team said Monday.

According to a release, the Coyotes have entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Catellus Development Corporation, which is the master developer for the Arizona State University Athletic Facilities District.

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The site of the proposed new arena is the Northwest corner of E. Rio Salado Parkway and South McClintock Drive in Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State started playing Division I men’s ice hockey this season as an independent.

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The Coyotes are reportedly planning on staying at Gila River Arena, their current home in Glendale, through the 2018-19 season. This agreement provides for a period ending no later than June 30, 2017 to create the overall budget, design and operational plan for the development.

Below are the details of the arena as provided by the Coyotes.

The plan includes the construction of a 16,000-plus seat NHL arena for the Coyotes with an attached additional 4,000 seat multi-sport arena. The second arena will be utilized by Sun Devils Athletics, Coyotes practices, youth hockey practices and games and community events. These two new additional sheets of ice will continue to help grow the sport at the grass-roots level. In the future, a new hotel and other related amenities will be finalized as part of the second phase of the project.

Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told Arizona Sports that there will be “several tranches of money” utilized to build the arena, though team will be the lead investor in the project and Arizona State will provide a large contribution.

“We’re not looking for general funds from any governmental organization, but we need to form a very strong partnership with the State of Arizona and the City of Tempe,” LeBlanc said. “We also have to work with a variety of stakeholder groups such as Goldwater Institute and others so they understand what it is we’re trying to do. These projects have a process.”

A new arena for the Coyotes has been the subject of rumors for quite a while and could end a long, contentious relationship between the team and the City of Glendale. During the summer of 2013, the Coyotes and Glendale came to a 15-year $225 million lease agreement, which at the time, seemed to mean the team would stay in the West Valley for the foreseeable future.

In the summer of 2014, Glendale voided the team’s lease at Gila River Arena and the city and the Coyotes then came to a two-year lease agreement shortly after.

The Coyotes later said they would not be one of the companies bidding to manage the arena and Glendale opened up the process, eventually selecting AEG, which owns the Los Angeles Kings.

The Coyotes had played there since 2003, but have struggled to attract fans in recent years. Much of the team’s fanbase is located in the East Valley area, and uncertainty with the arena, and ownership which was stabilized in 2013,  may have hurt fan enthusiasm. The Coyotes last averaged over 14,000 fans per-game during the 2008-09 season.

Last December at the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings at Pebble Beach, LeBlanc told Puck Daddy that he was entertaining a move within the Phoenix area for the team. In June, he said the organization had picked a location, but didn’t give specifics.

“Over the past year we have been exhaustive in our research regarding the most optimal location for our new home in the Valley,” LeBlanc said in a statement provided by the team. “While we have tremendous fans all across the greater Phoenix metro area, not to mention the entire state, it became clear that the East Valley is home to a majority of our fans and corporate partners. Our fans in the West Valley have shown us tremendous support over the past 13 years, and we look forward to working with them as we transition to our new home in the future.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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