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Do the Coyotes intend to buy Mesa land for arena?

Hockey team announces ‘letter of intent’ to purchase unnamed site. ‘It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to buy it,’ a deal watcher says.

PHOENIX — The Arizona Coyotes are publicly disclosing their first steps toward finding a new home in the Valley, after Tempe voters’ resounding rejection last May of a planned $2.1 billion arena and entertainment complex. 

The Coyotes issued a statement Monday that said team owner Alex Meruelo “has executed a letter of intent to purchase a parcel of land in Mesa” as a potential site for a new arena and entertainment complex.

So how much of a commitment is a letter of intent to purchase land?  For one thing, it’s not binding.

“It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to buy it, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to buy it at that price,” said Neil deMause. 

DeMause has tracked public subsidies for pro sports facilities for 25 years. He’s followed the Coyotes’ saga.

“You never want to take these deals too seriously, until you actually see the financial agreement,” deMause said.

The potential site is believed to be in a county island in northwest Mesa.

The team said it’s still exploring other east Valley sites, but declined to provide more information

The arena would be the “first privately funded sports facility in Arizona history,” according to the Coyotes.

The team made the same claim about its proposed Tempe arena. 

However, a 30-year property tax break on the arena and a shorter break for the rest of the projected would have saved the team half-a-billion dollars.

“You always want to follow the money,” deMause said.

“The money is what makes these things happen – not having a particular site that you sort of say, ‘Hey, that might be good.'”

The team’s announcement comes with the Coyotes on the verge of starting their second season in a 5,000-seat college hockey arena on the Arizona State University campus. Training camp starts next month.

The team was booted out of its longtime home in Glendale at the end of the 2021-2022 season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is the reason the money-losing Coyotes haven’t been moved out of Arizona.

“Look at the (NHL’s) actions and look at the history,” Bettman told reporters in November 2022, when the Tempe City Council approved the Coyotes’ ill-fated plan.

“That commitment from us has never wavered.”

That commitment is being tested once again.

Bettman told an interviewer in June that he expected to have a “pretty good handle” on the Coyotes’ situation by early 2024. 

The Coyotes appear to be working on the same timeline in selecting an arena site.

“If we need to explore further options, we’ll consult with management,” Bettman said in June. “There needs to be a permanent solution on the horizon.”

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