There’s No Place For Home: Arizona Coyotes Out At Gila River Arena

Written By C.J. Pierre on August 20, 2021

The Arizona Coyotes may have just rolled snake eyes.

The City of Glendale said it will not renew the team’s operating agreement at Gila River Arena beyond the 2021-2022 NHL season.

“We are thankful to the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes for being part of the Glendale community for the past 18 years,” said Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps in a statement.

“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.”

Whether or not the Coyotes would stay in Glendale has been a yearslong storyline. The team has been on a year-to-year lease since 2016. The saga has gone through ownership changes, negotiations and ongoing discussions.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes remain the only major pro sports team in Arizona not to land a deal with a gambling partner.

Glendale choosing not to renew Coyotes lease

In a release, Glendale officials emphasized that the city decided against renewing the Coyotes as they maintain “an increased focus on larger, more impactful events and uses of the city-owned arena.”

The year-to-year agreement between Glendale and the NHL franchise stated that either party could choose not to re-up the lease provided it submits written notice on or before Dec. 31. Glendale did just, informing the team that this coming season will be its last in Gila River Arena.

Citing more than a billion dollars of investment into the Sports and Entertainment District over the past three years, the city now has eyes on bigger and better things for the arena.

Said Phelps:

“Over the next year, the City will be announcing many new projects that will generate incredible excitement for residents, visitors and stakeholders. As amazing as the Sports and Entertainment District is today, the next several years will be even more transformative as this momentum continues.”

Arizona Coyotes falls flat on the ice financially

Glendale wants to focus on larger, more impactful events at the city-owned arena as the district continues to develop.

That statement could hint at what kind of financial impact officials think the team has on the city.

Take the recent pandemic-riddled season out of the equation. Since 2011, the Coyotes have been in the red in terms of operating income every single year. Topped off with an operating income of -$17 million during the 2019-2020 season.

Despite making the playoffs that season, the team still had trouble drawing fans, with an average of 14,605 at Gila River Arena — fourth-worst in the NHL. After Alex Meruelo bought the team for $300 million in 2019, the franchise has lost $15 million in value over the last year.

Tracking Arizona sports betting partnerships

Currently, the Coyotes sit as the lone professional sports team or complex that hasn’t landed a sports betting partnership. With 10 licenses carved out for those entities, there was certainly room for an Arizona Coyotes sportsbook.

Yet the Coyotes have watched as its cohorts aligned with operators. The Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Phoenix Mercury each have deals in place with betting providers. Similarly, TPC Scottsdale and Phoenix Raceway partnered up with sportsbooks. Each now has a path to open retail operations and roll out betting apps in Arizona. That leaves the Coyotes currently on the outside looking in as regulators review applications with a target launch date of Sept. 9.

It seemed curious that the team had not landed a sports betting partner.

The team is losing money and now searching for a new home. Certainly, there are questions on whether a sports betting partner would even want to make a deal with the ‘Yotes. Or if the team could even afford it.

Photo by AP / Ross D. Franklin
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C.J. Pierre

CJ Pierre is a multimedia journalist currently residing in the Phoenix-Metro Area in Arizona. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. CJ has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career. Most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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