Coyotes arena drama: 5 things you need to know

Posted at 12:33 PM, Apr 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-13 16:58:57-04

Believe it or not -- and based on recent history, you're certainly free not to believe it -- it may finally all be coming to an end.

The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on the brink of finalizing a long-term plan for a brand-new arena and, in the process, free themselves of the constant off-ice distractions that have plagued them for over a decade.

The Coyotes' days of playing at Glendale's Gila River Arena are numbered, but their days in Arizona are not. Here are five things you need to know about where things currently stand.

1. The Coyotes are staying in the Valley. 

Yes, we’re all sick of the Coyotes’ never-ending arena drama – and believe us: the Coyotes are, too. But the good news is that, after years of speculation, the possibility of the team actually leaving Arizona is dead.

Team ownership, along with the NHL itself, is intent on having the Coyotes remain in the Valley on a long-term basis. The only question is where in the Valley that will be. That brings us to…

2. They want out of Glendale.

The Coyotes moved to Glendale in 2004, but hockey has never quite caught on in the West Valley for multiple reasons. Last summer’s legal issues, in which the Glendale City Council voted to terminate its 15-year arena lease with the team, seems to be the last straw in the Coyotes’ relationship with the city.

The city council is also expected to soon vote on whether to hand arena operations over to a Los Angeles-based company. So, it’s safe to say the Coyotes’ 12-year marriage with Glendale will end in a messy, albeit inevitable, divorce.

3. They expect to announce new arena plans this month.

The Coyotes’ renegotiated lease with Glendale is set to expire after the 2016-17 season. As such, the team is looking at three possible new arena locations elsewhere in the Valley, and co-owner Anthony LeBlanc anticipates an announcement on that front by the end of April.

Those three options, according to sources, are Phoenix (a joint arena with the Suns), Tempe (a joint arena with Arizona State’s NCAA Division I hockey team), and Scottsdale (a partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community).

4. Tempe and Scottsdale are the rumored frontrunners.

ABC15 sports director Craig Fouhy learned last month that the Suns and Coyotes have struggled to reach agreeable terms about the creation of a shared arena in Phoenix, leaving Tempe and Scottsdale as the most likely locations for the Yotes' new home.

In January, ESPN reported Tempe is the Coyotes’ top choice, which would make sense, as the Coyotes and Sun Devils already have a strong relationship, and ASU is in desperate need of a larger place to play. On Monday, Coyotes captain Shane Doan said he wouldn’t mind seeing this partnership happen.

But Scottsdale also seems like a quality option, even as a fallback scenario. Sources say the Salt River community is ready to break ground on a new arena ASAP. All they're waiting for is the green light.

5. The Coyotes will need a temporary home.

ESPN reported in January that a new arena won’t be hockey-ready for three years from the time an agreement is reached – and with the Coyotes’ lease with Glendale expiring after next season, that means the team will need a temporary place to play.

Those options are unclear at the moment, but only three possibilities seem realistic: a short-term lease extension with Glendale; a temporary live-in situation with the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena (where the Coyotes played from 1996-2003); or the Suns’ former home, Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where several minor-league hockey teams previously played.

The Coyotes reportedly had conversations with Veterans Memorial Coliseum officials late last year. The arena is over 50 years old and has a seating capacity of less than 14,000 for hockey -- but as a temporary home, it should do just fine.