Coyotes have ‘every intention’ of remaining in Arizona, plan to buy land

The Arizona Coyotes remain committed to keeping the team in the desert.

The Coyotes confirmed a report by Taylor Rocha of ABC 15 that the franchise is moving forward with a plan to buy land in north Phoenix.

The Coyotes’ arena situation has been in flux since their lease expired at Gila River Arena at the end of the 2021-22 season, prompting a temporary arrangement to be made with ASU to play at its 5,000-seat facility. The Coyotes have an agreement to play at Mullett Arena for the 2024-25 season with a possible extension.

A public vote to build an arena and entertainment complex in Tempe, Ariz., was defeated last May.

Marty Walsh, the NHL Players’ Association’s executive director, expressed his frustration with the lack of progress. Walsh took aim at the franchise on Friday before a large group of NHL media, indicating he has “serious concerns about Arizona,” which has yet to firm up plans for a new home rink and is currently playing out of Arizona State University’s college arena.

“It’s not just about buying a piece of land,” he said. “You can buy a piece of land. How long is it gonna take you to permit the land? Do you need a referendum? Is it hazardous waste? Do you need to remediate the land? There’s lots of questions. So you could talk about buying land in Arizona and it could be 10 years before there’s a shovel in the ground? As far as I’m concerned, that is unacceptable on behalf of the players on that team and should be unacceptable for the league.”

Every day without progress, said Walsh, causes further delay.

“We’re a little over halfway through the season. If, at the end of the season, Arizona doesn’t have a place to play next year, well now there’s another season of uncertainty moving forward.”

When Bettman was asked during his media conference beforehand about the situation, he offered a lukewarm vote of confidence that team president Xavier Gutierrez will deliver on an arena plan.

Walsh was less enthusiastic.

“The last conversation I had with the commissioner was that the owner was looking at a piece of land in the Arizona area,” he said. “I’m not sure where that stands. I have my personal concerns whether that will happen. You know, there was a piece of land in Mesa. There was a piece of land in Phoenix. There was three ballot questions in Tempe. None of that came to fruition, so let’s see what happens.”

With respect to the possibility of relocation, Walsh said he has first-hand knowledge of the interest in NHL teams.

“A lot of mayors have said to me, ‘We’d love to have team,” said Walsh, citing the mayors of Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix. “If there’s no plan in Arizona, I would encourage a move to another location.”

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