Coyotes to stay in Arizona, play at college arena next season as relocation looms

After the team's plan for a new arena once again fell through after a city vote on Tuesday night, the Coyotes' days in Arizona appear to be numbered.

The Coyotes could very well be gearing up for their final season in the desert. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The Coyotes could very well be gearing up for their final season in the desert. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Coyotes will reportedly stay in Arizona and play at ASU's Mullett Arena in 2023-24 following some devastating news for the franchise and its fanbase on Tuesday.

Speculation that the team would have to relocate immediately ran rampant in the moments and hours after a $2.1 billion entertainment district — including a brand new rink for the Coyotes — in Tempe was rejected by voters, with over 56% of respondents from the Phoenix suburb voting "no" on three propositions needed for approval.

However, on Wednesday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski he doesn't "envision a scenario in which the Coyotes are not playing in Mullett Arena next season," with Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman confirming the report.

Following Tuesday's vote, commissioner Gary Bettman — who has championed the hockey-in-the-desert campaign since the dawn of time — expressed his disappointment in what could be the final dagger for the NHL in Arizona.

"The NHL is terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes' arena project in Tempe," Bettman said in a statement, per Wyshynski. "We are going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward."

Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez wrote the following in a statement following the vote:

"We are very disappointed Tempe voters did not approve Propositions 301, 302, and 303.

"While we wanted a different outcome, we remain grateful to all those who volunteered their time and talent. What is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks."

The team was proposing a 16,000-seat arena along with an entertainment district on city-owned land — similar to what the Oilers have crafted in recent years. The total cost of the project — which would have featured hotels, condos, a theatre, bars, restaurants and more — came in around $2.1 billion, with at least $1.9 billion (essentially all of it) coming from private funds.

Though Wednesday's development may buy the Coyotes a little bit of time to somehow, someway try to find a miracle and stay, but the likeliest outcome here is the departure of the franchise from Arizona following next season.

The beleaguered franchise has been steadily in and out of financial trouble since the late-2000s, with the club most recently being evicted from their home in nearby Glendale at end of the 2021-22 campaign and moving to the much cozier Mullett Arena, nestled on a college campus complete with bizarre lighting and a seat capacity of only 5,000.

The team had initially planned to remain at Mullett for three years until the proposed Tempe facility was built.