Glendale officials announce Gila River Arena renovations, plans for its future

The city of Glendale is planning renovations to modernize the Gila River Arena.

Although it won't be the home of the Arizona Coyotes after the NHL season ends, city officials say they're planning for a bright future as an architectural firm has been selected to renovate the arena.

"We’re really anxious to get going, and we hope the major design elements will be completed by the end of this year. By this time next year, we should be laying out a schedule for doing the actual work," explains Glendale's City Manager, Kevin Phelps, on Jan. 10.

The designs will be focused around live entertainment and music events. The plan is to open up the suites and create more club areas and premium seating areas for more walking space.

"It doesn't mean that we still couldn't do things like one-off hockey games or basketball games or indoor football, national lacrosse, indoor lacrosse. Those are all still things that fit in the arena," Phelps said.

Things have changed since Gila River Arena opened its doors in 2003. City officials know the venue needs upgrades, and they want to bring in more big-time acts in the entertainment industry, ultimately bringing more appeal to the entire Westgate Entertainment District.

Phelps says the city hopes to spend around $40 to $50 million for the complete renovation, and if funds are used correctly, the arena will look brand new.

It's only the beginning of district will be, Phelps says. "I think that we are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg of what the entertainment district is going to continue to evolve into over the next several years."

In December 2021, Coyotes nearly got locked out of the Gila River Arena due to delinquent taxes and unpaid arena charges, but the team says it has paid their debt in full after an "unfortunate human error."

The back taxes are just the tip of the iceberg, following years of squabbles and threats, with several new owners and the NHL.

Earlier this year, the team was put on notice that it would need to find a new arena after the city of Glendale announced it will not renew the team's lease.

It was reported that the city decided not to renew their operating agreement with the Coyotes, citing "an increased focus on larger, more impactful events" for the arena after the upcoming season ends. Both parties were under a year-to-year agreement for the past few years.

In the long run, Glendale officials believe they are better off giving pro hockey the cold shoulder.

The city manager says the entire process of renovation should take at least two years, including the design, engineering and construction.

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