Coyotes confirm plan to play at ASU’s ‘intimate’ arena

Coyotes arena
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That rather grim Arizona Coyotes/Arizona State University arena plan looks to be official. The Coyotes announced a plan to play home games at ASU’s arena the next three seasons (2022-23 through 2024-25), with the option for the 2025-26 season.

Coyotes confirm ASU arena plan starting in 2022-23; Attendance questions linger

In the official Coyotes release, there’s no mention of expected hockey attendance for NHL games at ASU’s arena. That likely isn’t an accident. In Craig Morgan’s original news about a Coyotes – ASU arena plan, one capacity estimate was around 5,000 fans. Yet, sources wondered to Elliotte Friedman that the capacity could be closer to 3,200.

Even if it ends up being about 5,000, that would constitute by far the smallest capacity in the NHL.

So, don’t blame Coyotes President, Chief Executive Officer and Alternate Governor Xavier A. Gutierrez for using the word “intimate” in the arena release. It was probably between that and “cozy.”

“We are thrilled that we have arranged to play our home games in Arizona State University’s new multi-purpose arena starting next season,” Gutierrez said. “This will be an incredible, intimate and exciting fan experience in a state-of-the-art new arena in a fantastic location in the heart of Tempe. We are very grateful to Dr. Crow, the ASU Administration, ASU Athletic Department, and the Arizona Board of Regents for agreeing to provide us with this temporary arena solution for our team as we continue our efforts to secure a long-term home for the Coyotes in the Valley.”

During Gary Bettman’s All-Star weekend press conference, he noted that some projections might point to the Coyotes possibly earning more revenue at ASU arena than Gila River Arena.

Being that Gila River Arena can hold more than 17,000 fans for a hockey game, that sure felt like a “self-own.” But it could also end up sadly true.

Let’s try to find a silver lining. That “intimate atmosphere” could be a ton of fun if the Coyotes can deliver on their rebuild while still at ASU’s arena. The dream would be playoff games with the atmosphere of seeing your favorite band playing a stripped-down sets at smaller clubs.

Hopefully the atmosphere at least exceeds that of a sad, barely-attended open mic night.

If nothing else, it sounds like the Coyotes are making a good first impression with their new landlords.

That’s quite relevant since, you know, Glendale/Gila River Arena officials threatened to lock the Coyotes out of their arena for alleged unpaid bills. Oops.

An eternal struggle continues

To some, there might be a feeling of closure. For us veterans of endless Coyotes arena news, that’s tough to believe.

Instead, it feels like it merely translates to yet another extension for that term paper.

In the latest hopeful plan, the Coyotes hope to hash out a deal for a new arena (possibly in Tempe) while using ASU’s arena as a temporary home. Maybe they’ll finally make it happen, as this franchise is vampiric in its persistence.

Yet, if the last decade-plus pattern holds, the Coyotes arena situation will simply drag on, possibly outlasting us all.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.