The Arizona Coyotes’ arena deal with Arizona State University fell through last week, sparking another round of (seemingly endless) speculation about the team’s future in the state.
On Wednesday, a report in the Glendale Star has made things really interesting: The paper reports that “members of the Arizona Coyotes” have toured arena locations in two Pacific Northwest cities: The Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, the home of the Portland Trailblazers; and KeyArena in Seattle, former home of the Seattle Supersonics and an arena many have speculated would temporarily house an NHL team before a new arena is built.
Trailblazers owner, Paul Allen, has said he would like to own a percentage of any team that may play at Moda Center. Portland has long been one of the many rumored landing spots of the Coyotes, as well as Seattle.
A spokesperson for Key Arena said, “(the city) recently had a tour for potential developers and potential ownership groups and there was a representative from the (Coyotes) that was part of that.” He was unaware what member of the organization was part of the tour.
The Coyotes, through spokesman Rich Nairn, called the report “false” when asked by the paper for comment.
This isn’t the first time the Coyotes have been mentioned with Seattle, which was not granted an NHL team in the League’s latest round of expansion due to arena uncertainty and lack of a single viable ownership group.
In 2012, there was talk about the team moving to Seattle, but Key Arena was deemed not viable for hockey in the long term.
In 2013, Seattle was “Plan B” for the NHL as it attempted to sell the Coyotes following the team’s bankruptcy proceedings. Former Coyotes star Jeremy Roenick was reportedly part of the ownership group that sought to relocate that franchise, but it was sold to owners that kept the franchise in Glendale.
So was this report, if accurate, an indication that the Coyotes are looking to leave or just the franchise checking its options if a new arena can’t be built in Arizona?
As for that new building, it won’t be at ASU, but there’s always a chance that the Coyotes could rejoin the Phoenix Suns of the NBA in a new building.
The Coyotes still have an ally in Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who needs a co-tenant to sell taxpayers on a giant new arena for the Suns. But the political climate is very tricky and very toxic. It will be harder than ever for our NHL team to leave a stadium specifically built for them in a Glendale cotton field, even if the remote location is slowly killing the franchise.
“If the relationship between the Coyotes and Glendale is over, I’d like to have that team in downtown Phoenix,” Stanton said in mid-January, during the Suns’ visit to Mexico City. “We don’t need another new arena in our region. We have the perfect site in downtown Phoenix.”
So the saga continues. Seattle not getting an expansion team was bad news for Coyotes fans, as the NHL obviously wants to keep geographic balance should one of its teams need to be relocated. The Coyotes to Seattle would do that.
The Seattle downtown arena project continues to lurch forward, but there’s always been speculation that a team could be in Key Arena in the short term is necessary while a new building is constructed.
More drama, stress and strain for Coyotes fans. Relocation talk is poison to building a fan base there. Of course, incessant losing isn’t helping either.
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