The Arizona Coyotes are going to college as they wait on a potential new arena in Tempe.
The Coyotes announced on Thursday that they've reached an agreement with Arizona State University to play at the Sun Devils' new multipurpose arena beginning in the 2022-23 season. The team said it will play all its home games at the venue through the 2024-25 season, with an additional option for the 2025-26 season.
The team needed a new home. They're in the last year of their lease at Gila River Arena, and the city of Glendale declared that the 2021-22 season will be the team's last in the building, ending a contentious relationship.
The Coyotes targeted ASU as a temporary option that would keep the team in the Valley of the Sun as it negotiates a new arena in Tempe. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo submitted a $1.7 billion arena and entertainment complex plan to the Tempe City Council in Sept. 2021, but it hasn't been voted on yet.
The agreement was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents. The venue at ASU is expected to be completed early this fall. As part of the plan, a 15,000 gross-square-foot annex will be built next to the arena that will have NHL-quality home and away dressing rooms, as well as team facilities. There will also be upgrades on the original construction plan to meet NHL specifications on ice and broadcasting infrastructure.
The arena project is budgeted for $134.7 million, an increase of $19.7 million from the original budget. The Coyotes are covering the additional costs.
The move was met with skepticism from around the NHL because the capacity of the ASU facility is expected to be around 5,000 seats, and perhaps less for hockey. The amount of revenue from ticket sales and other arena streams would be miniscule compared to what other NHL teams bring in.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the Coyotes playing at ASU wouldn't impact their revenue sharing, because they're already at the maximum. In fact, the NHL believes there a chance the move to a smaller venue could be financially advantageous for the franchise.
"This will tell you why it is they need a new arena: We're not sure there's going to be a material difference between their revenues at ASU and in Glendale. In fact, under one projection that we've done, we think they may do better," said Bettman.
He said the NHL is fine with the plan as long as it's not a permanent solution.
"As long as it's only temporary, I think fans can have a lot of fun with it," Bettman told ESPN during All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. "Think about the 5,000 people, the type of intimate experience they are going to have."
The Coyotes also announced that the club is negotiating with Ice Den Scottsdale to make the complex the team's full-time practice facility. Ice Den Scottsdale was built in 1998 as the Coyotes' primary practice facility. Since moving to Glendale in 2003, the Coyotes have continued to use the facility when Gila River Arena was unavailable because of concerts and other events.