No Vote On Tempe Arena Puts Coyotes’ Future On The Move

The oddity that is the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL playing in a 5,000-seat university arena will likely continue for one more season. But after that, expect to see Arizona on the move to somewhere bigger and brighter. Just don’t plan on that arena residing in Tempe, Phoenix or anywhere else in Arizona.

On May 16, voters in Tempe rejected three propositions that would have opened the door for a $2.1 billion Tempe Entertainment District that included a new NHL arena for the Coyotes, with $1.9 billion of that from private funds. With that deal dead, it looks like Arizona State University will be the home for the Coyotes for one more year before the NHL sends the team on the move.

“We are very disappointed Tempe voters did not approve Propositions 301, 302 and 303,” Xavier Gutierrez, Arizona Coyotes president and CEO, says in a statement. “As Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said, it was the best sports deal in Arizona history.”

Gutierrez says that “what is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks.”

While the proposed 16,000-seat arena in Tempe won’t materialize, wherever Arizona ends up moving to must have an NHL-ready venue to house the team. Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Quebec City and Houston are the cities that have already been floated as a potential destination.

If—or should we say when?—the Coyotes become the first NHL teams since Atlanta returned a team to Winnipeg in 2011 to make a move, they’ll vacate Mullett Arena and slide into something much larger. Where might that be?

A move to Salt Lake City puts the NBA’s Utah Jazz venue, Vivent Arena, in play for hockey. Something similar would happen in Houston, where the Rockets of the NBA play in the Toyota Center, also quite capable of doubling up on basketball and hockey.

Two arenas originally built at least partially to lure an NHL franchise still exist in Kansas City and Quebec City. The 17,000-seat T-Mobile Center was built in Kansas City in 2007 and fans in the area have longed to see an NHL team make that a permanent home. Similarly, Quebec City built the 18,000-seat Videotron Centre in 2015. It houses the junior hockey Quebec Remparts.

“The NHL is terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes’ arena project in Tempe,” Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner, said in a statement. “We are going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward.”

Of course, there will be plenty more cities tossed into the fray before a final arena emerges victorious. We just know it won’t be a new arena in Tempe, even if the Mullett Arena remains a quirky NHL home for potentially one more season.

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