Arizona Coyotes players told the team is relocating to Utah, per ESPN report

Team's owner yet to address recent reports, says he will publicly address concerns 'as promptly as possible'
Arizona Coyotes sponsor jersey.jpg
Posted at 8:18 PM, Apr 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-15 20:49:41-04

PHOENIX — Players for the Arizona Coyotes were told Friday that the team is relocating to Utah, according to a report from ESPN.

Sources confirm the ESPN report to ABC15, but the specifics of the move are not known at this time.

After Friday's game against Edmonton, Coyotes Head Coach André Tourigny prefaced his postgame presser by saying he has no comment on anything other than the game.

On Saturday, team Owner, Chairman and Governor Alex Meruelo released the following statement Saturday afternoon.

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days about the future of the Arizona Coyotes. I understand and empathize with the concerns of our fans, our community, our partners, our players, our front office, and all of our team members. I hope to address these issues as soon as I am able to speak on the topics.

We are focused on a myriad of issues that are unresolved, and therefore we are unable to make any official public comments at this time. However, you have my commitment that I am going to speak on all of these issues and publicly address all of your concerns as promptly as possible.
Alex Meruelo

Sources told ABC15 Wednesday that the NHL has considered moving the team to Salt Lake City as soon as the 2024-2025 season.

Following reports of the move, Utah Governor Spencer Cox took to X to welcome the team to Utah. The post has since been deleted.

Coyotes CEO and President Xavier Gutierrez said in recent weeks that winning an upcoming land auction was the "last hurrah" before the team would have to explore relocation of the organization.

Coyotes' ownership also told ABC15 that they are committed to winning the auction on June 27.

According to ABC15 sources, if and when a new arena is built and ready, there is a possibility of an NHL team returning to the Valley.

In letters ABC15 obtained from the mayor's office, Meruelo reached out to Gallego to request a meeting. In one dated April 5, Meruelo stated that he plans to spend a minimum of $68.5 million in cash to purchase the land and then construct an arena and entertainment district "to serve as the permanent home for my Coyotes NHL team." He added that Gallego's public commitment is "absolutely necessary in making our project a reality."

In a second letter dated April 10, Meruelo asked again for a meeting with Mayor Gallego, stating that he and his family love Arizona.

"We see this as our home, and are committed to being a leader in this community today and into the future," Meruelo wrote.

A spokesperson for Gallego said that the mayor has agreed to meet with the team's owner in the coming weeks. The mayor's office reportedly learned about the team's potential relocation from media reports.

ABC15 has reached out to the Coyotes for comment but has not yet heard back.

An official statement is expected to come from the National Hockey League next week.

The history of the Coyotes in the Valley

When the Coyotes first came to Phoenix in 1996, the team shared what's now Footprint Center with the Phoenix Suns.

In 2001, the team's owners at the time set out to build in the old Los Arcos Mall in Scottsdale but ultimately made a deal in Glendale.

In the middle of the 2003-2004 season, the Coyotes played their first game in the West Valley in what was originally called Glendale Arena.

When the team filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the NHL took control and negotiated with Glendale to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.

In 2021, after falling behind on payments to the arena, the city announced it wouldn't renew its lease with the Coyotes.

Current owner Alex Meruelo made a deal with Arizona State University to make Mullett Arena the Coyotes' temporary home as the team looked to build an entertainment district in Tempe.

Here is what AZ Coyotes envision for Tempe arena and entertainment district.

The Tempe City Council approved the development and left the decision up to voters, who ultimately voted no in May 2023.

The Coyotes were locked in to play at Mullett Arena for two years, but the team was still looking to find a permanent home.

According to a spokesperson of the mayor, Mayor Kate Gallego met with Gutierrez in September and learned that the team was working with the Governor's Office and State Land Department to secure a 95-acre plot of land in north Phoenix. ABC15 learned of the fact in early December.

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Rendering posted by the Arizona Coyotes show the potential arena, entertainment district for up-for-auction state land in the north Valley.

The state trust land near Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 was approved to go to auction, which is now set for June 27.

Mayor Kate Gallego is reportedly meeting with Meruelo in the coming weeks. A specific date is unknown.