With a lease agreement with Tucson and American Hockey League approval of the sale of the Springfield Falcons franchise, all the pieces are in place for a new Arizona Coyotes-owned Tucson AHL team at the downtown Convention Center for the 2016-2017 season.
It was a three-step process for the Tucson AHL move to happen, but the most important probably was an earlier April agreement with the downtown business group Rio Nuevo, which agreed to fund $3.2 million in arena upgrades at the Tucson Convention Center. Armed with this agreement, the City Council was presented with a lease that protected the city from any directly losses should the new AHL team falter. From the Arizona Daily Star:
“We as the team are backstopping the investment that is being made, in this case by the Rio Nuevo board, to put more improvements into the TCC to make it AHL-ready,” [Coyotes CEO Anthony] LeBlanc said. “But that should show the commitment we have to making this work and the fact that we feel as strongly as we do about the viability of the franchise.”
Surcharges paid on each ticket bought by hockey fans will also help fund arena improvements.
A capital reserve fund will be created, and if repairs above $50,000 become necessary to continue hockey play the funds could be spent. If there isn’t enough in the reserve fund for emergency repairs, Rio Nuevo could pay for the repairs and then surcharge money could be used to repay Rio Nuevo.
The Coyotes join five other West Coast NHL teams in bringing their AHL affiliates closer to home. By and large the moves were a big success, with some dramatic rises in attendance from last season to 2014-2015. (Want an example? Check out our recent article on the San Diego Gulls.) Next up: a name-the-team contest.