After years of looking for a new home in the desert the Arizona Coyotes announced Monday they have finalized plans for a new arena in the East Valley area south and east of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
The new 16,000-plus seat arena in Tempe is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019-20 NHL season and will be part of a larger development that will include a 4,000-seat arena complex that will be home to the Arizona State University Division I hockey team, as well as serving as a practice facility for the Coyotes and youth hockey programs.
The team announced that it has entered an exclusive negotiation agreement with the master developer for the ASU athletic facilities district to complete the arena and commercial project. The 58-acre project will be located along Tempe Town Lake.
The team and Catellus Development Corporation have until the end of June to come up with a final budget, design and business plan for the project.
The team has been looking at a variety of locations in Phoenix and the Scottsdale/Tempe area for the past three or four years after its relationship with the City of Glendale, builder and owner of the team's current home, went off the rails.
There has been an immediate and overwhelmingly positive response to the team's anticipated move to the East Valley, Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told ESPN.com Monday.
"It's been completely embraced by the fan base and by the corporate partners," LeBlanc said.
It's believed the cost of the project will be in line with other new sports facilities in Las Vegas and Sacramento and will be in the neighborhood of $400 million. The team and ASU are expected to bear the vast majority of that cost.
One of the key elements of the project will be the smaller arena project which will provide two new sheets of ice that should help the growth of youth hockey in the area.
LeBlanc noted the impact at the NHL level of the first overall pick in last June's draft, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who grew up a Coyotes fan and played youth hockey in the Phoenix area.
The model for growing the game in non-traditional markets is simple, LeBlanc said.
"You build ice rinks and you get kids playing the game," he said.
The Coyotes have played in Glendale since December 2003. They initially played in downtown Phoenix after the franchise relocated from Winnipeg in the summer of 1996.
The move should finally resolve issues of the team's viability in Arizona.
"Our fans in the West Valley have shown us tremendous support over the past 13 years," LeBlanc said, "and we look forward to working with them as we transition to our new home."
During the team's time in Glendale, the franchise has been plagued by poor attendance in large part because the majority of the fan base was on the east side. For a four-year period, the team was operated by the NHL as new owners were sought to keep the team in the region.
But even after the sale of the team in 2013 there were ongoing issues with the lease arrangement between Glendale and ownership which prompted ongoing legal challenges and the constant threat of relocation.
The team is expected to negotiate an extension of their current lease to remain at Gila River Arena in Glendale until the opening of the new building.
The Coyotes are off to a slow start this season with a 5-9-0 record that has them in last place in the 14-team Western Conference.