GLENDALE, Ariz. - The 2021-2022 NHL season will be the last time the Arizona Coyotes will be playing in Gila River Arena for the foreseeable future, the city of Glendale announced on Aug. 19.
The city decided not to renew their operating agreement with the hockey team, citing "an increased focus on larger, more impactful events" for the arena after the upcoming season ends.
"The future of the Sports & Entertainment District has never looked brighter with more than a billion dollars of investment during the past three years," city officials said in a statement. "The magnitude of this private investment is unprecedented in Glendale’s history."
Both parties have been under a year-to-year agreement for the past few years. Either party can decide not to renew the agreement through a written notice before Dec. 31.
The Coyotes have played at Gila River Arena since moving from America West Arena, which they shared with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, in downtown Phoenix in 2003. The Coyotes have operated on an annual lease since 2016 after the Glendale City Council voted to opt out of a long-term agreement.
Arizona had a deal with Arizona State University to build a shared arena but the school backed out.
The Coyotes have been searching for a new home since Glendale backed out of its lease agreement, possibly closer to the more populous suburbs east of Phoenix. New owner Alex Meruelo has said he plans to keep the franchise in Arizona.
The Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum — the Arizona State Fairgrounds arena that opened in 1965 and hosted the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WHA’s Phoenix Roadrunners and an assortment of minor-league hockey teams — is a possible interim destination. It seats 13,730 for hockey.
Coyotes, city officials react to decision
Officials with the NHL have released a statement, saying they are disappointed by the decision on the city's part to break off negotiations on a multi-year lease extension agreement, adding they hope the city will reconsider. They also say they are open to restarting good faith negotiations, and are committed to finding a long-term arena solution in Arizona.
City officials are also speaking out.
"We have been happy to have them here in the community," said Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps. "This decision was not at all based on anything being upset with the Coyotes."
Officials with the City of Glendale say this was not a decision that was made quickly. They say the decision was made following a recent analysis in their economic study.
"We have come to the conclusion not only would we be able to survive Coyotes leaving, but the future looked incredibly bright by not being tethered to the dates of what they consume in the arena," said Phelps.
According to the study, the city would have to pick up 20 new events of 10,000 people to offset the 43 games the Coyotes hosted in the arena.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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