Munn: Coyotes Arena Issue? Blame the NHL

Arizona Sports News online

​On Saturday, February 18, the Arizona Coyotes staged a wonderful tribute to 20 years in the desert.

​There were several messages that came out of that night, but there was one that screamed louder than all the others.

​The Arizona Coyotes will never play in an arena they have to share with the Phoenix Suns.

​This is not based on inside information. This is just a plain old case of reading between the lines.

​The outstanding pregame show that night on Fox Sports Arizona featured numerous references to the Coyotes first home here in Phoenix, and none of those references started with “be it ever so humble”.

​It didn’t take long to figure out the Coyotes still bear the scars of the seven-plus years they played at America West Arena. The truth of the matter is, they’re right. The arena was not built specifically for hockey, and those obstructed view seats were a problem.

Thirteen years and a few months since they moved to Glendale, the Coyotes have clearly not gotten over it.

​Among the multiple reasons neither team wants to share a venue is this – both the Suns and Coyotes manage the buildings they currently play in, which means they get first choice of dates to play home games. The Coyotes are also right about the fact they didn’t get first crack at the calendar at America West. The Suns manage the building, they get first choice. Makes sense.

​The Coyotes would jump at the chance to get into a building Downtown where they could be in control, but if you’re the City of Phoenix, why would you tell the Suns they’re not in the arena management business anymore?

​Over its 25 years at the Arena, the Suns Management company has won numerous national awards for its work with concert and event promoters. Most of the major concerts and other events go to Talking Stick Resort Arena not just because of its location, but also its reputation.

There simply exists no valid reason for the Suns not to continue operating whatever venue they end up in.

​If indeed the Coyotes are so gun shy about going into a plan to share an arena in Downtown Phoenix, there’s are flaws with their fears.

​For openers, they won’t be going back to a situation where the building they play in is not designed for their sport. Give the architects credit – they know how to design an arena that’s good for both sports.

​Second, if they’re worried about having the Suns as a landlord again, let’s clear up, once and for all, why the Suns were not the villains in everything that went wrong with the Coyotes.

​In 1990, as Jerry Colangelo was finalizing the design for the new arena, architects presented him with two basic plans. Plan A was what we know the Arena to be – an intimate setting, even with 18,000-plus seats, for basketball, with the ability to put down ice for shows and, perhaps, a minor league hockey team that wouldn’t be bothered by obstructed view seats. Plan B was a multi use design, sacrificing intimacy for functionality.

​When it came time to make a final decision, Colangelo wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing. So he called the National Hockey League office, and got the league President, John Ziegler, on the phone.

​Jerry’s question to Ziegler was right to the point – do you see the NHL coming to Phoenix in the next 10 to 15 years?
​Ziegler’s answer was even more succinct – no.

​Colangelo told his architects to go with Plan A.

​You know what happened next – Gary Bettman leaves the NBA to become NHL Commissioner, and when the Winnipeg Jets had to get out of THEIR substandard arena, he asked Colangelo to come to the rescue.

​Sorry, Coyote fans, it wasn’t the Suns that made that building so difficult for you to live in. It was your league President. It wasn’t even the Commissioner you love to hate.

​So, you have a hockey team that won’t share a building with a basketball team that doesn’t deserve to be told it has to take a back seat, and for good measure, you have a community that isn’t willing or able to fund two new arenas.

​There are a lot of good people who work for the Coyotes. Their fans are, without question, the most dedicated fans in town. Consider the fact that, almost from the minute their team arrived, people have speculated about whether they could stay.

​Unless the Coyotes either make things work in Glendale or accept they aren’t getting a new place of their own, those fans had better get used to seeing their team play in another substandard venue. Key Arena in Seattle.