Yesterday Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports dropped a news bomb: the Arizona Coyotes are exploring a temporary relocation to Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There are two things to keep in mind: IceArizona is "exploring" the possibility, and the relocation would be temporary while a new facility is built somewhere else in the Valley.
Why Veterans Memorial Coliseum?
There are quite a few possible advantages to moving to the former home of the WHA's Phoenix Roadrunners. The first reason, and really the impetus behind even considering this move, is that moving to Veterans Memorial Coliseum would get the Coyotes out of Glendale and away from the City Council and whichever private arena manager the council selects.
Additionally, the Coyotes would automatically become the arena's primary tenant. As of this moment the Coliseum only has three events booked: a two-day free dental clinic, a week-long livestock show, and the Maricopa County Home and Garden Show, which is one weekend in January. Even including the Arizona State Fair, the Coliseum is not exactly rolling in events.
A move to the Coliseum would give the Coyotes a fair amount of scheduling flexibility, as well as potentially exclusive revenue rights over everything from parking to concessions. Those supplemental revenue streams could prove important in minimizing the damage from playing in less than ideal conditions.
Finally, moving to the Coliseum would be a prime opportunity to test IceArizona's theory that a more centralized location is better financially for the team. If fan feedback is strong and the Coyotes see many newcomers purchasing tickets, that may be a solid indicator that playing in Downtown Phoenix is the best possible scenario for the team on a permanent basis.
Why Not Veterans Memorial Coliseum?
But any move to Veterans Memorial is going to have a myriad of challenges. The arena was completed in 1965, and so would be the oldest venue in the NHL by far; even the current version of Madison Square Garden has been renovated twice since its opening in 1968.
The current capacity for hockey according to Morgan's article is 12,500, with zero luxury suites. Additionally, the NHLPA has a list of requirements every NHL arena has to meet, and it's unclear how much work IceArizona would have to do to satisfy those requirements. For a temporary move, that expense may not be worth the effort.
To highlight just how small the arena would be, consider that currently the Arizona Coyotes are 27th in average attendance in the NHL at 13,278. Were that number to stay constant next year, they would be operating at 106% capacity.
And if somehow the Coyotes got the seating capacity back up to the 13,730 figure listed on Wikipedia, they would already be at 96.5% of capacity. The numbers will make the spreadsheets look nice, but it's really hard to grow the fanbase when you can't get them into the building.
On top of that, the arena is surrounded primarily by industrial and residential development. It is also very close to The Stack, where I-10 and I-17 meet. While that may be convenient for some trying to get to the arena, it would also add to some of the congestion surrounding those freeways during rush hour.
It seems like a stretch for IceArizona to pull the trigger on this one. It seems far more likely that this would be an option of last resort if Talking Stick Resort Arena is not a temporary option or the manager of Gila River Arena imposes particularly unfavorable terms on remaining in Glendale for the short-term.
So keep Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on your radar, but don't lose sleep wondering if your upper deck season tickets are going to be obstructed by a view of the saddle-dome.