News today is that the City of Glendale is terminating the Arizona Coyotes’ lease for the city-owned Gila River Arena. In effect, that leaves the NHL franchise without a home after the upcoming 2021-22 season. Suddenly, that begs the question: Are the Coyotes long for the Phoenix area?
A Brief History of the Coyotes?
NHL fans will know that, before moving to the Phoenix area, the Coyotes were the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets starting in 1972 until 1979. When the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, the team stayed in Winnipeg and remained the Jets until 1996. Then they moved to Phoenix and were renamed the Coyotes. In 2014 the franchise dropped the Phoenix name and became the Arizona Coyotes. They’ve remained the Arizona Coyotes for the past seven NHL seasons.
Why the Lease Termination?
Almost since their move to the Phoenix area, the Coyotes have struggled financially. Season after season, it seems, the franchise has been engaged in financial shortfalls. According to Forbes (The Business of Hockey), the Coyotes have struggled to draw fans, and have averaged under 15,000 at Gila River Arena, which is the fourth worst number in the NHL.
The Coyotes have been on a year-to-year lease since 2016 with its arena management company, ASM Global. The City of Glendale had always sought a more solid commitment from the team. However, the patience the City of Glendale has shown seems to have come to an end.
The Announcement Reads
“With an increased focus on larger, more impactful events and uses of the city-owned arena, the city of Glendale has chosen to not renew the operating agreement for the Arizona Coyotes beyond the coming 2021-22 season.”
Where Does that Leave the Team and the Fans?
Who knows what will happen next? Apparently, this decision comes after “stalled negotiations” between the city and team over a lease extension and potential renovations to the arena. But “multiple notices” of unpaid bills by the team to the city also contributed to the parting of ways. (from “Point of no return’: Glendale to boot Coyotes from Gila River Arena after 2021-22 season,” Katie Strang, The Athletic, 19/08/21).
The fact is that sustaining fans and building a good team in the desert has been difficult. What happens next will be interesting.
From a personal standpoint, I’ve seen a number of games in the arena when Canadian teams have visited the Coyotes. It’s a great venue, with plenty of shopping and restaurants. And, close free parking. If the team moves, I’ll miss it.
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