Arizona Voters Shoot Down Coyotes New Arena In Tempe; Is It Time To Move?

Videos by OutKick

After years of arena instability, difficulty courting fans, and even bankruptcy, it sounds as if the Arizona Coyotes will soon be on the move following news that voters had rejected their plans for a new arena in Tempe, Arizona.

The Coyotes are in desperate need of a new barn. 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State is fine, but an NHL-caliber arena, it is not.

That’s why the ‘Yotes hoped to build an arena in Tempe. However, voters weren’t having it and rejected 3 propositions that would have allowed the team to build a $2.3 billion arena.

The Coyotes signed a three-year deal to play at Mullett Arena, with an option for a fourth season. However, that was with the assumption that they’d have a new arena in the works. Now, they don’t, so…

Following news that the propositions had been shot down, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement about working to determine the team’s future.

“The NHL is terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes’ arena project in Tempe,” Bettman said. “We are going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward.”

The question now turns to what’s next, and there are really only two options: stay in Arizona or move.

Mullett Arena
Sharing an arena with the Arizona State Sun Devils is a good short-term fix, but it’s definitely not a long-term solution to the Coyote’s arena problems. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Is There A Way For The Coyotes To Stay In Arizona?

TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted that if the team wanted to stay in Arizona, they’d need some help. He hypothesized that one lifeline for staying in Arizona could be new Suns owner Mat Ashbia.

Of course, that’s pure speculation. After buying an NBA franchise, does it seem likely that Ashbia would say, “Y’know what? I think I’m going to pony up for the NHL team too.” Even if he has the money, given the Coyotes’ history of struggles, is buying the team and keeping them in Arizona even an attractive option?

Dreger threw out the idea that a joint arena bid from the Suns and Coyotes could be the best option, at least as far as staying in Arizona. He’s probably right. The Suns play at the Footprint Center which was built in 1992. Especially with new ownership, it could make sense to figure out a way to build a new arena, and the Coyotes could hitch their wagon there.

However, it still seems like relocation might be the team’s best bet, and there is no shortage of options.

The Howes with the Houston Aeros
Houston has a solid hockey history. It was home to the WHA’s Houston Aeros whose roster once featured hockey legend Gordie Howe and his sons, Mary and Mark. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

The Coyotes Have A Slew Of Places They Could Move

The NHL and the Coyotes have far more options on the table if they decide to relocate. Relocation is in the franchise’s blood. They’re the old Winnipeg Jets who played in the WHA and later NHL until set up shop in the desert back in 1996.

Arguably the most obvious choice is Houston. It’s the fourth-biggest TV Market in the United States and the largest without an NHL team. It has a solid hockey history having been home to the WHA’s Houston Aeros back in the 1970s.

However, Salt Lake City recently popped up on the NHL’s radar. Especially because Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith has publicly said that is interested in bringing an NHL franchise to town.

As Dreger points out, there is an incentive to leave Houston open as a possible expansion city.

Both Houston and Salt Lake — plus Kansas City, which seems like a bit of a dark horse — would all be solid fits, that would make for an easy move for the league as they fit nicely within the NHL’s Central Division which the Coyotes are already part of.

No, Quebec City Doesn’t Make Any Sense

But would it be a discussion of NHL expansion and/or relocation without mentioning Quebec City? I think you’re just obligated to at this point, because compared to the likes of any previously mentioned US city, and even Atlanta — which has had two-relocated franchises — Quebec City is at the bottom of the list.

No offense to the great people of Quebec (my olive branch is that I love poutine. Gravy and cheese curds on fries? Game-changer. Good work, folks) but it makes no sense to move a team there. It’s a small market in Canada where their dollar is weaker, plus it would unbalance the conferences. There’s no upside apart from the league making good after the Nordiques moved to Colorado and then immediately won the Cup.

So, again, while not getting a new arena in Tempe is less than ideal for the franchise, the Coyotes have plenty of directions they could go.

We should know more in the next few weeks about what the future holds for the ‘Yotes.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.


Leave a Reply
  1. So voters (i.e. Taxpayers) declined to hand over $2.3 billion to build a Hockey Arena? Good for them! Do you have any idea what the cost of floating the bonds for that would be? We’re not in a zero-interest world anymore. The amortization on those bonds would be steep, and run for many years. And all for what? A hockey team that no one cares about?

    I imagine they would move on to Houston to try their scam next. Lots of crooked pols in that town, in addition to stupid people who would vote themselves into penury just to have a New Sports Team! “Oooh! Shiny!”

  2. Considering the interest on bond issues is a key component now. Professional sports teams continue to stick their fingers in the eys of fans by raising prices, slapping advertising patches on jerseys, and then asking for taxpayers to fund stadiums. The cable bundle era has passed, along with the easy revenue that came with it. It could be time for teams and leagues to realize that the unlimited streams of fan funding may no longer be available.

Leave a Reply