ASU intends to build a new hockey arena despite backing out of Coyotes deal

Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-14 19:08:59-05

The Arizona Coyotes have insisted they still have a number of options at their disposal after their agreement to create a joint arena complex with Arizona State University fell through.

According to ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, the Sun Devils aren't out of options, either.

"We have additional options that we are pursuing, and we will do so aggressively," Anderson said Monday during an ASU media luncheon at Karsten Golf Course. "(As) part of bringing on our hockey program and elevating it to varsity NCAA Division I status, we made promises that we would provide a conference affiliation appropriately and we would (play) our home games in an appropriate Division I-caliber facility, so we are going to deliver on those promises."

The nullified Coyotes-ASU arena deal would have had both teams playing in new arenas in time for the 2019-20 hockey season. Anderson said he intends to stick to that timeline.

"We want to be 19-20 at the latest in our own facility, or a facility that we can call ours, home, for the long term," he said. "It may have changed in somebody else's mind but it didn't change in my mind."

ASU's hockey team joined the NCAA Division I ranks last season but still play their home games in an arena far smaller than the average NCAA D-I venue, as Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe has a seating capacity of less than 800. The proposed joint arena venue with the Coyotes would have given the Sun Devils a 4,000-seat arena.

Anderson also discussed the renovation of Wells Fargo Arena, where the Sun Devil men's and women's basketball teams play. He said such a renovation could be done in conjunction with an adjacent hockey arena on ASU campus.

"Yes, there's a chance that you could jointly try to do basketball and hockey at the same time," he said. "For instance, if you're thinking about Wells Fargo, where it is, and hockey is a facility that maybe gets built right next to it, then there may be some efficiencies by essentially doing the construction simultaneously, or in pretty close proximity, time-wise. 

"I think we're pressed more on the hockey multi-purpose arena, if you will, than Wells Fargo. It may be done in conjunction with that or it may be done as a subsequent separate project."

Anderson said it's also possible, albeit unlikely, that ASU hockey and basketball could eventually share an arena space.

"I think for us, that probably would not be the optimal solution because it's not just hockey and basketball; it's wrestling and it's gymnastics and it's volleyball that we have to make sure we're paying attention to, as well," he said.

"Some people would tell you by design, an architectural perspective, that it may not be the best fan experience if you try to put basketball and hockey into the same building. We look at all those things."

When the Coyotes announced the arena agreement in November, a pair of Coyotes owners were present during the press conference in Glendale, but no ASU representatives were present. On Monday, ABC15 sports director Craig Fouhy asked Anderson if this was a sign that ASU wasn't really on board with the proposed arena to begin with.

"I initiated the original discussions with the Coyotes about potential partnerships, so certainly we were on board," Anderson said. "But the way things evolved during the course of discussions and negotiations, things shift and shake.

"Under no circumstances did the Coyotes essentially go out and announce all that without ASU at that juncture being completely on board."

In each of the last two seasons, ASU hockey has played four of its home games at the Coyotes' current home, Gila River Arena in Glendale. The Coyotes still intend to leave that arena in favor of a new venue elsewhere in the Valley after the 2018-19 season.