Coyotes pay overdue bills to avoid arena eviction
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes are all caught up on their bills. No eviction necessary.
The hockey team in the desert paid off its overdue taxes and other bills Thursday, a day after receiving word the city of Glendale was going to lock the Coyotes out of Gila River Arena if all outstanding debts to the city and the management company for the arena are not paid.
Glendale city manager Kevin Phelps sent a letter Wednesday informing the Coyotes they owed $1.3 million in taxes, including $250,000 to the city.
Phelps informed the Coyotes that the Arizona Department of Revenue had filed a notice of tax lien for unpaid state and city taxes owed by IceArizona, the Coyotes’ ownership company. Phelps also said in his letter that he had instructed ASM Global, which manages Gila River Arena, to not allow the Coyotes in the arena if the bills were not paid by 5 p.m. on Dec. 20.
The Coyotes issued a statement late Wednesday saying the unpaid bills were an unfortunate human error and they would rectify the situation quickly. They did on Thursday, avoiding what would have been an awkward turn in the franchise’s long journey to find a permanent home.
When the Coyotes first moved from Winnipeg in 1996, the team shared America West Arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in downtown Phoenix. The team moved to Gila River Arena in 2003, but faced near-constant relocation rumors as ownership changed hands.
Former owner Jerry Moyes took the Coyotes into bankruptcy in 2009 and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie put in a bid to purchase the team with the intention of moving it to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL, wanting to keep the team in Arizona, put in a counter bid and a Phoenix judge ruled the team could not be sold to Balsillie to circumvent the NHL’s relocation rules.
The NHL ran the Coyotes for four seasons and the financial constraints associated with that took a toll, leading in part to a seven-year playoff drought.
A new ownership group brought new hope in 2013, but turmoil surfaced again in 2015, when the city of Glendale voted to terminate a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement with the Coyotes for Gila River Arena.
Plans for a new shared arena with Arizona State University fell through in 2017 and the franchise’s future in the Phoenix area continued to remain in doubt.
Andrew Barroway gave the Coyotes a bit more financial flexibility when he bought a majority stake in the team in 2017, but he sold the team to current owner Alex Meruelo, who has said he plans to keep the franchise the Phoenix area.
The Coyotes have been leasing Gila River Arena on an annual basis, but Glendale has announced it will not renew its agreement with the franchise beyond the 2021-22 season.
The team has submitted a bid for a tract of land in the suburb of Tempe in what could be its first step to finally landing a permanent home.