By: Jenna Ortiz
The Arizona Coyotes will be able to move forward in negotiations with the city of Tempe after the City Council voted 5-2 in favor of the Coyotes’ bid to build an arena and entertainment district on city-owned land.
“This is step one and we know that the council made it clear that this begins that process and we’re very excited about it. Tonight is the night to give thanks and be humble and grateful. The work starts tomorrow. We think this project is completely compelling and we do believe it is an iconic and transformative project for the city of Tempe,” Coyotes’ President & CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said.
Following an arduous process over eight hours on Thursday, the process included several key people around the Coyotes organization addressing the council, including former captain and current Chief Hockey Development Officer Shane Doan, along with current forwards Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, and Nick Schmaltz.
"I speak for myself, my family, my teammates when we say that we love living here and being a part of this community," Keller said during the meeting. "I think speaking to other players around the league, when they come here, they speak wonders about the restaurants and way of life... I think Arizona is important to the NHL and we want to stay here."
Lyndsey Fry, Olympian and current Coyotes director of External Engagement & Female Hockey, also addressed the council. Doan was brought onto the team’s arena project not only because of his history with the franchise, but because of his experience around the NHL and being around different arenas. Doan has also been at several city council meetings throughout his 20-plus years in Arizona.
“Every single time it’s always different. I don’t want to do any more of these. I want this to be over and get this going in the right direction,” Doan said. “As Xavier said, this is the first step and we understand that we have more and we know that we’re going to be part of it and we want to work with the city and do everything we can to answer their questions and answer the people’s questions too. We want this to be a building and a development for everybody.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called in during the meeting and stated that if the arena was built, the league would guarantee an All-Star game and draft in Tempe. The proposal also included a 30-year non-relocation agreement.
The decision is a landmark for the Coyotes, but it does not guarantee an arena as the city and representatives of the team will need to have a months-long negotiations process over the city-owned land at Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive, along the dry Salt River just west of Tempe Town Lake.
“This is the first step of something we know that’s got a great vision and a great opportunity to really be the home that all these fans and our fans in waiting have deserved. It’s just an exciting night and we’re truly blessed and honored,” Gutierrez said.