The team vehemently denied a Forbes report on Thursday citing an unnamed banking source that the Coyotes are up for sale “with the idea of [a] buyer eventually moving the team to a new arena in Houston.”
Arizona quickly issued a statement in response.
“This is false. Totally false,” the statement read. “We’re not selling. We’re not moving. The Coyotes are 100 percent committed to playing in Arizona.”
This was the latest in a string of relocation rumors surrounding the Coyotes, and not the first involving a potential move to Texas.
Back in 2018, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to have “preliminary talks” about buying the NHL club and moving it to Houston. Fertitta declined to comment, and nothing more was reported about a pending partnership.
At the time, hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway held a 51% controlling interest in the Coyotes, which he purchased in 2014. On July 29, 2019, Barroway sold that controlling interest to billionaire Alex Meruelo, while Barroway stayed on as a minority owner.
The Coyotes may not be actively looking for a new city to play in, but they do need to find a new rink. Last August, the city of Glendale announced it was opting out of the joint lease agreement it has with Arizona to play at Gila River Arena, making the Coyotes homeless (as of now) for the 2022-23 season.
The lease worked on a year-to-year basis, allowing either side to opt out if needed. The city’s decision to terminate the agreement came after long-term negotiations fell through due to multiple notices of outstanding balances by the team.
Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said in August that the team was “disappointed” that the city of Glendale had broken off the multiyear negotiations and reiterated the team’s desire to find a permanent home in the area.
“We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale,” Gutierrez said. “We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the city. Most importantly, the Coyotes are 100 percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire valley and, most important, our fans.”
To that end, the Coyotes have been trying to build a new 16,000-seat venue in Tempe, but they face pushback there as well. The club’s $1.7 billion proposal for the project would include hotels, apartments and a shopping area over 46 acres of city-owned land.
But airport officials have raised concerns about the development’s proximity to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as the property would line up with their two busiest runways. The Coyotes claimed the building heights they were proposing would not impede planes’ descent to the airport, and they vowed to work with officials in the area to address any issues that came up.