The Arizona Coyotes Franchise Dream Shattered by Land Auction Cancellation

The Arizona State Land Department recently canceled a land auction that was crucial for the Arizona Coyotes’ owner, Alex Meruelo, to reactivate his dormant NHL franchise. This decision has left the future of the team hanging in the balance. The NHL had previously approved the establishment of a franchise in Utah, with Meruelo transferring the Coyotes’ assets to Smith Entertainment Group while retaining the team’s intellectual property. However, the plan to reactivate the Arizona Coyotes franchise hinged on Meruelo constructing a state-of-the-art facility suitable for an NHL team within five years.

The Coyotes had identified a 95-acre parcel of land in north Phoenix as a potential location for a new arena. However, the ASLD raised concerns about the type of hockey arena that Meruelo intended to build on the land. While the land was already zoned for an indoor hockey arena, it did not necessarily cover the construction of a full-fledged NHL arena with a 17,000-seat capacity (expandable to 18,500 for other events). This discrepancy led to the ASLD requiring a Special Use Permit before proceeding with the auction, ultimately resulting in its cancellation.

The Coyotes expressed their disappointment and frustration with the ASLD’s decision to cancel the auction, stating that they had met all legal obligations and were prepared to win the bid. The team criticized the ASLD for jeopardizing the future of NHL hockey in the desert and highlighted the potential financial implications of the cancellation on K-12 education. The Coyotes are now exploring their legal options in response to what they perceive as a shortsighted move by the state.

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega weighed in on the situation, noting that the land in question had “questionable zoning entitlement” prior to the auction. He viewed Meruelo’s plans for a new arena as a mere “fantasy hockey proposal” and criticized the Coyotes’ owner for his handling of the franchise. Ortega’s comments underscore the challenges and complexities associated with large-scale development projects in the region.

The cancellation of the land auction has dealt a significant blow to the Arizona Coyotes’ hopes of reactivating their NHL franchise. The uncertainty surrounding the construction of a new arena and the ASLD’s decision to require a Special Use Permit have added further obstacles to the team’s path forward. The future of NHL hockey in the desert remains uncertain, casting a shadow over the once-promising plans for the Arizona Coyotes.

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