Arizona Coyotes Arena Plan Loses Special Election -- Is Relocation Next?

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Arizona Coyotes Arena Plan Loses Special Election — Is Relocation Next?

Chicago Blackhawks, NHL

The Arizona Coyotes just moved into the Central Division at the start of the 2021-22 season when the Seattle Kraken began play as the NHL’s 32nd franchise. But the Blackhawks’ newest division foe might have to look for a new home after suffering perhaps the most significant loss in the history of the franchise on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, voters in Tempe cast ballots in a special election deciding the fate of the Coyotes’ planned $2.1 billion Tempe Entertainment District plan. The following is from a really good, in-depth breakdown of what was on the table from Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff:

The Tempe Entertainment District is slated to include a palatial new, 16,000-seat arena, along with a 3,000-seat music venue, a 1,900-unit residential complex and luxury retail shops, restaurants and hotels.

The plan calls for 46 acres bordering the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is currently hazardous wasteland, to be developed. Specifically, voters are being asked to vote YES or NO on three questions:

Proposition 301: Amends the city’s general plan for use of the property.
Proposition 302: Permission to rezone the property.
Proposition 303: Provides the Arizona Coyotes the right to develop the 46-acre site for a new arena, an entertainment district, two boutique-style hotels and nearly 2,000 residential units.

Well, the votes were cast and then counted on Tuesday. And the results were pretty bad for the Coyotes.

In the wake of the three propositions suffering catastrophic losses in the polls, Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez spoke to the media. His reaction was about what you would expect from a man whose big plans were just denied.

The NHL released the following statement late on Tuesday night as well:

The original Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 and changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes in 2014. They have had seven different ownership groups, multiple bankruptcies and are currently sharing the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena with Arizona State’s NCAA program. That capacity can’t sustain an NHL franchise long-term. Which is why this vote was so important.

I think at this point we can all start realistically thinking about where the Coyotes’ future home might be.

When considering relocation, I think back to when I was covering the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with the media for his State of the League address and the subject of relocation came up regarding the Atlanta Thrashers. Bettman outlined three things that are necessary for a team to stay in a city: stable ownership committed to the market, fans committed to the team and an arena that is up to NHL standards. This vote crosses the arena off that list for the Coyotes, and their history of ownership transitions raise questions about that element as well.

Given how much the league worked to balance the two conferences with Vegas and Seattle joining in the past decade, moving them to the Eastern Conference could complicate the current alignment. So… is Houston in the cards for an NHL franchise? We’ll have to wait and see.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab