The city of Glendale, Arizona, home of the Arizona Coyotes, has decided to not renew the operating agreement for Gila River Arena after the 2021-22 season. This essentially is the city kicking the Coyotes out of the rink, with a statement from Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps making it quite clear that the partnership is ending:
We are thankful to the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes for being part of the Glendale community for the past 18 years. The decision to not renew the operating agreement with the Coyotes was not made overnight or in a vacuum. We carefully weighed input from key stakeholders, our expert economist, our arena management firm and our City Council.
In a follow-up report, Katie Strang of The Athletic has Phelps on record explaining that they have “reached that point of no return” and examines the large debts that the franchise owed as of July 29. The city had agreed to forgo an amount owed from last year due to the pandemic affecting the team’s financial situation, as long as the Coyotes agreed to “keep current with all future financial obligations,” which has apparently not occurred.
It is not at all clear what the next step is for the Coyotes. Finding another arena in the area will be difficult, and there have been obvious pushes in the past by places like Quebec City and Houston. The NHL’s long-standing position has been to try and keep the Coyotes in Arizona, but this is just another setback in that goal. Previously, the team has indicated a desire to pursue a new arena deal in Tempe, and the original deadline for proposals was today. That was recently delayed until September 2, and there are considerable hurdles for that plan as well. Phelps told Strang that the Tempe interest was not the reason for the decision to terminate the Glendale arrangement. For now, the team will play out the 2021-22 season in Gila River Arena and Glendale, but their future beyond that is extremely murky.
The Coyotes released a statement a few hours later:
We are disappointed by today’s unilateral decision by the City of Glendale to break off negotiations on a multi-year lease extension agreement. We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale. We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the City.
Most importantly, the Coyotes are one hundred percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire Valley and, most important, our fans.