Arizona Coyotes, Tempe to move forward on arena talks

The Arizona Coyotes and the city of Tempe will move forward on negotiations on a new arena and entertainment district after the city council’s 5-2 vote in favor of the bid on Thursday night.

“We want to thank everyone who came out to show their support for this project, this organization and this vision,” said Xavier A. Gutierrez, the Coyotes’ president and CEO. “We know this is Step 1 and we know that the council made it clear that this begins that process and we’re very excited about it.”

The Coyotes are seeking to build an arena on city-owned land at Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive, at the west end of Tempe Town Lake. They called Glendale home from 2003 through last season but their lease at Gila River Arena was not renewed. The Coyotes will play in an arena on Arizona State University’s campus, with a capacity of around 5,000 fans, for at least the next three years.

The Tempe project has been estimated at $1.7 billion and includes restaurants, shops, apartments and a new hockey arena on a 40-acre site.

“Tonight is the night to give thanks and be humble and grateful. The work starts tomorrow,” Gutierrez said. “We think this project is incredibly compelling. We do believe it is an iconic and transformative project for the city of Tempe.”

The city council meeting featured both proponents and opponents of the project. Coyotes players Christian Fischer, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz spoke in support of the bid. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called into the meeting to endorse the plan “without reservation,” but said there would be a 30-year “no relocation agreement” required in any arena deal.

Chierstin Susel of PHNX Sports reported that the NHL has also promised an NHL All-Star Game and an NHL draft at the new building if approved.

“The people need to feel like they have the right to come out and say what they want to say,” said Shane Doan, former Coyotes star and the team’s chief hockey development officer. “I don’t want to do any more of these. I want this to be over. I want this moving in the right direction.”

Now comes what is expected to be months of talks about the arena project. Nothing is ever guaranteed for the Coyotes, who have been through over a decade of arena and ownership drama, but the team said this is important step toward a new home.

“It’s a great night. They should absolutely be excited,” Gutierrez said. “This is the first step of something we know that’s got a great vision and a great opportunity to really be the home that all these fans and our fans in waiting have deserved.”

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