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Coyotes pitch temp tenancy in new ASU arena

New Arizona State University arena

The Arizona Coyotes (NHL) plan to play temporarily in a new ASU arena, with the team paying for NHL-level upgrades to the 5,000-seat home of Sun Devils hockey.

The new ASU arena is set to open this fall as home to the NCAA team. It’s a small college arena–and, quite honestly, at 5,000 seats, it’s a little small by NCAA standards–and not designed at all for the needs of an NHL team.

While the Coyotes have not officially declared their intentions to play here until a new Tempe arena opens, their facilities plans were made public in documents ASU will make to the state Board of Regents this week, per the Arizona Republic:

The proposal documents say that in December 2021, the Coyotes approached ASU to propose playing their 2022-2023, 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 home games at the 5,000-seat multipurpose arena, with the Coyotes’ lease for Gila River Arena ending at the conclusion of this season. That would indicate that the Coyotes feel a new arena would be ready for use by the 2025-2026 season, but the project is still yet to be approved by the City of Tempe. 

Also in the documents, the university is asking the board to approve the construction of a two-story, 15,000 square-foot annex structure adjacent to the northeastern edge of the arena. This annex will accommodate NHL-quality home and away team dressing rooms, training areas, equipment rooms, nutrition stations, a coaches work room, team storage and a fitness room.

All costs for the annex building and the required facility upgrades will be paid by the  Coyotes, the university said in its proposal. The annex building would remain after the completion of the proposed new Coyotes arena, the land for which isn’t far from ASU, and will be put to further use by the university.

While there’s been some off-the-record grumbling from NHL execs and owners about this arrangement, there’s no on-the-record criticism from the likes of Gary Bettman. The opposite, per Arizona Sports:

“There are a lot of hockey fans and the team has built a good fan base. And with the right arena, situation, they will be great,” Bettman said. “And at the end of the day, if there has to be a temporary accommodation … I think they can create a terrific experience for people in a more intimate setting. And it wouldn’t be the first time that we were in a smaller facility pending the construction of a new arena.

“This is good market. This has been a franchise that has had its challenges, some of which are beyond its control. As long as there is a commitment and forthcoming for a new building, then it’s going to be worth sticking with it.”

This plan only makes sense if the team’s Tempe plans come to fruition. We’ve outlined there here, but basically the team is working with the city on a $1.7-billion mixed-use office/entertainment/housing development anchored by a new Coyotes arena. Opposition comes from Phoenix and Sky Harbor officials who say the development may impact airport operations, but that’s a bit of a red herring: the FAA and not city officials determine potential impacts on airport operations. (Indeed, the FAA has been known to reject sporting venues based on airport impact; one early location for Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium was rejected because of FAA concerns.) A local group opposes the project because of the potential impact on Tempe finances, but as the arena and development are privately financed, there’s some debate over that as well, although concerns about community benefits should certainly be addressed when we potentially see some public debate on the proposal.

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