Nashville, Tenn. — after voters in Tempe, Arizona, shocked the Coyotes last month by rejecting a referendum that would have allowed the team to build a plaza in their city atop the wreckage of a 50-year-old landfill, let’s just say, lesson learned.
As the organization gets back to work trying to find a location in the East Valley for a privately funded entertainment district, worth more than $2 billion, Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said Wednesday that the club has identified a half-dozen publicly owned or private or tribal which does not require a general vote in order to reach agreement.
“We (the NHL) have told us that one of the things we want to avoid is plebiscite and all we’re looking forward to is hopefully something that will avoid that,” Gutierrez said.
Make no mistake, the pressure is on the Coyotes to find a permanent solution, and quickly, especially with Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith waiting in the wings in hopes of bringing the NHL to Salt Lake City.
Gutierrez said the organization is committed to preserving the franchise in the greater Phoenix area and is taking a different path by putting several options in play rather than just one. They’ve been in discussions with over a dozen sites and narrowed that down to half a dozen sites that they think are ready to take the next step.
Commissioner Gary Pittman said he wants a concrete plan after January 1, 2024, “and based on our timing, we think that would be the appropriate timeline.”
“We remain committed to finding a site in the Valley and in particular on the … Scottsdale-Phoenix-Mesa-Gilbert 101 Corridor,” Gutierrez said. “We are committed to continuing to (own) a privately funded sports and recreation area with all uses. We still want to put our money where its mouth is and build something that will be best in class.”
The East Valley is ideal, Gutierrez said, because that’s where the growth of population, businesses, and homeownership is in Phoenix, not to mention “where our fan base is.”
Gutierrez said the Coyotes have re-engaged a number of locations they were talking to before settling on the dump in Tempe and that the offerings released by the team that will include a practice facility, theater, entertainment district, shops and apartments is still the vision and could even be. It’s improved because some of the options are larger than the 48-acre site the team hoped to build on in Tempe.
When the Coyotes moved into the temporary 4,600-seat Mullett Arena, the Coyotes signed a three-year lease with the option of a fourth.
“We’re still within the same timeline, and every site we’re looking at is getting it, going forward, getting ready to shovel, and we’re going to be in the same timeframe as we were in Tempe,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said the Coyotes had a 10 percent increase in ticket revenue last season despite a 75 percent drop in capacity compared to where the Wolves were playing in Glendale. He also said that season ticket holders are renewing at their highest rate in the history of the organization.
However, despite the quality of work in his opinion, he admits that the club needs to present a concrete plan to the league after the first of the year. Gutierrez said that although they want to have one specific entity, they can present multiple options to the NHL where they say, “This is what needs to happen in order to finish it and solve it. We don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we only have one solution.”
When asked if he thought that would satisfy the league, Gutierrez said, “They want to see a result, just like we do.”
“Nobody wants to solve it more than we do,” Gutierrez added. “Uncertainty is not good for us either. And we do everything we can to create certainty.”
(Top photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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