A letter written by Arizona State Sun Devils athletics director Ray Anderson released Tuesday reveals ASU's NCAA Division I hockey team intends to have a new arena in place by the start of the 2018-19 season.
The letter obtained by the Grand Forks Herald and dated June 10 was addressed to Josh Fenton, commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. In the letter, Anderson formally requested membership into the NCHC beginning in the 2018-19 season.
"Our administration currently plans to have an arena by the start of the 2018-19 season, thus turning the program into a revenue generating sport," Anderson wrote.
The Sun Devils have reportedly been seeking the creation of a joint arena with the Arizona Coyotes, who plan to move on from their existing home ice, Gila River Arena in Glendale, shortly after their revised lease with the City of Glendale expires after the 2016-17 season.
Anderson's letter makes no mention of the location of the arena or of a possible joint venue with the Coyotes. But in late June -- two weeks after Anderson's letter was dated -- the Coyotes announced the location of a new arena has been decided. Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc said that location would be revealed later in the summer.
ASU's current home ice, Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, has a seating capacity of less than 800. The Sun Devils reached an agreement with the Coyotes to play several of their home games at Gila River Arena last season, and enjoyed an average attendance of over 5,000 fans. ASU will play four games at Gila River Arena again this season.
Anderson detailed the benefits of ASU's partnership with the Coyotes in his letter to Fenton.
"The partnership with Gila River Arena and the Coyotes also gave Sun Devil Hockey the opportunity to reach televisions nationwide, as the Pac-12 Network broadcasted two games this past season on its nationally televised channel," he wrote.
In his letter, Anderson wrote ASU has secured $250,000 to create a "suitable practice facility" at Oceanside Ice Arena for use until the new arena is complete. He also outlined an NCHC membership fee payment plan in which ASU would complete the required $500,000 payment in 2021.
The NCHC currently has eight members: Colorado College, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud and Western Michigan. Each of those schools has a home hockey arena with a seating capacity of over 3,000.
The Sun Devils' top-tier hockey team joined the NCAA ranks last season and have been in discussions to create a new, larger arena. Multiple reports have suggested that arena could also house the Coyotes and may be built as part of a new development near ASU campus in Tempe on the Karsten Golf Course.
Earlier this year, sources told ABC15's Craig Fouhy that the Coyotes' top two location preferences for a new arena were Tempe in a joint venue with ASU, or in Scottsdale on the land of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Sources said a joint arena with the Suns in Phoenix was considered a distant third option.