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Report: Arizona Coyotes in negotiations to play at ASU's new multipurpose arena

A new report from PHNX's Craig Morgan says the Coyotes could be in Tempe as soon as next year, however, there is still work to be done.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes are still looking for an arena to play in next season, but a new report from PHNX's Craig Morgan, says they could be playing in Tempe as soon as next season. 

The Coyotes have been working to get a deal done with the City of Tempe on a proposed $1.7 billion arena and entertainment district, which would be built at the intersection of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway on the south banks of the Salt River. 

However, if the deal gets approved, the Coyotes would still need an interim home while it gets built. 

And, according to Morgan, the Coyotes are negotiations with Arizona State University to use their new 5,000-seat multipurpose arena as that new home. 

Morgan spoke with 12 Sports today, saying there are a lot of positives to the Coyotes playing on ASU's Tempe campus. 

"It's right where they want to be, right? It's right where their proposed arena is going to be if it gets approved by the Tempe City Council. So you're already establishing that location, this hub of hockey, you're building a relationship with the City of Tempe and Arizona State University, all of those are plusses," Morgan said. "Look, 5,000 fans, it's crazy to talk about an NHL game with that few fans, but if you're in there and that place is packed, I've done a virtual tour of that arena, it's a really cool space, so it would be a lot of fun."  

However, it is not as simple as just agreeing to play at the new arena.

"NCAA compliance issues prohibit them from using all of Sun Devil Hockey's team spaces. The locker room, the training facilities, the workout areas, so the Coyotes would have to build their own. And I'm told there's an area outside of that arena for them to do so, and I was told that the estimated costs is between $15 and $20 million," Morgan said. 

All of that money would have to come straight from the pockets of Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo. 

There would also be issues when it comes to scheduling, as ASU would have priority to all dates, and they have already released their hockey schedule for next season. 

"24 home dates, they are all on Fridays or Saturdays at 7 pm, so the Coyotes don't get any of those dates to pick from," Morgan said. "They're going to have to work around that schedule, as well as other events that are presumably going to be in that arena as well. So, not optimal from that standpoint either."

The Coyotes would also likely have to make upgrades to a practice facility, most likely the Ice Den in Scottsdale, to make this deal work. 

The Coyotes would not be able to make the necessary changes to Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in time for next season, they can't use Sun Devil Hockey's current home, Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, as according to Morgan, that land has been sold, nor could they use the community rink being built as part of ASU's new arena, as there are too many events scheduled. 

"First of all, the Ice Den was built two years into the Coyotes' arrival to be their practice facility. Now, they gave away some of those spaces the team used to house Mountainside Fitness and another tenant but they could go back there because it is so close to where all the players live," Morgan said. "It just makes sense on that front. And then they could, I don't know if they need to do it next season, but at some point, they probably need to sink some money into that place as well because the training areas, the medical areas for the staff, they're just not up to snuff for an NHL team."  

And for this to work, both the NHL and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) would have to sign off, and it appears that the league could be on board. 

"(NHL Deputy Commissioner) Bill Daly told me on the record, it's in that story, that they would not rule it out," Morgan said. "What they're looking to do here is if they believe there's a path forward to the Coyotes and that, of course, means that Tempe arena, if there's a path forward, they're going to do whatever they can to get the Coyotes from point A to point B, even if it means playing in a 5,000-seat venue."   

However, the NHLPA could have some concerns. 

"One thing that I'm really curious to watch though, what is the NHLPA going to say about this? They did have a veiled comment in my story saying they need to understand a lot more of this," Morgan said. "The biggest thing to me is hockey-related revenue. The players split that pie with the owners. Well, if the Coyotes are playing a 5,000-seat arena, and they've already been losing millions of dollars annually, what does that do to hockey-related revenue and will players and the PA be happy about that?" 

The reaction from Coyotes fans to this news has been mixed. Some fans are excited as it is a step toward keeping the Coyotes in the Valley, but others can't believe the team or the NHL would consider playing in an arena so small. 

"(Fans) see that it could help with their negotiations with Tempe as well. So I think a lot of them are actually mildly intrigued by this," Morgan said. "And there's the usual reaction from international media (and) from national media about what a clown show this is basically is what they're saying. But, you know, the people here, I think they've stuck with this team for so long, they've been through so many crazy, crazy chapters of this franchise, if this is what it takes to finally get them to that permanent arena, so be it."  

But, the great part about this, is it shows to fans that this team is 100% serious about staying in the Valley. 

"I can't underscore that part enough. It shows their commitment. If you're willing to take the kind of losses that you're going to incur at this arena, it's pretty clear that you want to be in Arizona," Morgan said. "And I've believed that for a long time because of sports gambling and Alex Meruelo's involvement with that. There are a lot of reasons to believe they want to be here. The league wants to be here because it's still a major media market. It's an important market to them, so this just underscores that again."  

The Coyotes issued a statement to 12 Sports about the possibility of playing in Tempe, saying, "As we have said many times, we are completely committed to building our future in Arizona. As part of that process, we are excited to be exploring some great temporary arena options here before we move into a new permanent home in the Valley."

12 Sports on YouTube 

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