SPORTS

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has sought out potential buyers

Apr 4, 2024, 6:57 PM | Updated: 6:58 pm

Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has spoken to multiple potential buyers — who are in the state and outside of it — to gauge their interest in purchasing the NHL franchise from him, Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reports.

Meruelo reportedly was seeking upward of $1 billion for the franchise that he bought in July 2019. The Coyotes owner had a recent meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the team’s future, Gambadoro adds.

“Mr. Meruelo and the team are solely focused on the land auction and winning the bid. And to keep the Coyotes in Arizona,” the Coyotes told Arizona Sports on Thursday when asked about potential conversations Meruelo had with possible buyers.

After a May 2023 public vote failed to greenlight the team’s purchase and development of an entertainment district in Tempe, the Coyotes’ most recently targeted land for a new arena in northeast Phoenix near Scottsdale Road and the Loop 101. The NHL franchise owned by Meruelo was planning to purchase that state land at an auction that, if posted in April, would not be up for bid until June at the earliest.

The hockey franchise, which has played the past two seasons at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena, had been searching for a site to construct a new arena after it was pushed out of its former home in Glendale after the 2021-22 season. ASU and the Coyotes were under contract for the team to play there through 2024-25 with an option year the following season.

Focusing efforts to win the Phoenix land at an auction that’s yet to be scheduled appeared to be the next step at finding a permanent home. There remained potential hurdles to cover before the team could purchase the land.

According to the Arizona state constitution, there must be an auction advertisement in print media for a minimum of 10 weeks before the auction. The state would have 240 days from the board of appeals’ approval of that auction on March 14 to hold it.

In other words, the land auction at minimum would not take place until mid-June but would not have to be held until Nov. 9.

According to the state constitution, “the department shall reappraise or update the department’s original appraisal of property to be leased, exchanged or sold if the board of appeals’ approval of the lease or sale occurred more than two hundred forty days before the auction.”

The drafting of an auction notice had not yet been completed as of Thursday, the Arizona State Land Department told Arizona Sports.

The team had scrambled to find alternatives to remain in the state after the failed Tempe vote.

Coyotes team leaders acknowledged in August that Meruelo had an interest in purchasing land in Mesa, reportedly near Alma School Road and Loop 202. At the time, the franchise said it was continuing to look at other properties in or near the East Valley.

The Phoenix land then became the focus, but signs that time was running short came when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during an All-Star press conference on Feb. 2 that he was “reasonably confident” that Meruelo and the Coyotes would have an arena solution.

“Alex Meruelo as recently as last week told me he was certain he was going to get this done,” Bettman said. “I don’t make it a practice of contradicting owners unless I have hard facts of the contrary and I’m both hopeful that and reasonably … reasonably confident that he’s going to do what he says.”

The owners of the NBA’s Utah Jazz said in January they had the immediate ability to bring an NHL team to Salt Lake City and requested the initiation of an expansion process. CEO Ryan Smith said the company is “100% focused on making this happen as soon as possible,” according to The Associated Press.

Talks between Smith and the league have been going on since 2022. The NHL said in a statement it appreciates the interest.

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Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has sought out potential buyers