Phoenix Coyotes: Should They Stay in Glendale or Relocate?

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Phoenix Coyotes: Should They Stay in Glendale or Relocate?
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Greg Jamison’s attempt to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and keep the team in Glendale appears to be back on the right track.

Reports from the beginning of August stated that Jamison was $20 million short on his bid to buy the team. However, according to Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal, Jamison has since secured the necessary funds to purchase the team from the NHL.

The NHL took over ownership of the Coyotes from Jerry Moyes in 2009 with the intention of keeping the team in Glendale.

From a business perspective, is this the best option for the team, or would relocating to another city be the better move?

There are plenty of hockey fans in the Greater Toronto Area, Quebec, Seattle, Wisconsin, etc. who would love to see a hockey team in their city. Meanwhile, hockey fans in Arizona continue to hold out hope that the team stays right where it is.

There are a number of positive factors surrounding the Coyotes franchise. They have one of the newest arenas in the NHL, Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, AZ. Built in 2003, the rink seats over 17,000 and is located in a popular shopping and entertainment complex—the Westgate City Center. In 2004 the arena won the Pollstar Best New Concert Venue of the Year Award.

In the last three years the Coyotes have had their most successful seasons on the ice since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. They’ve hit the 40 win mark in each season and won their first division title this past year. After eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks in six games and the Nashville Predators in five, the Coyotes fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the L.A. Kings.

Should the Coyotes stay in Glendale?

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Fans have shown their passion in the postseason, filling Jobing.com Arena in traditional “whiteout” fashion.

Unfortunately, fans have not shown their support by attending regular season games.

Some will argue that the location of Jobing.com Arena, about a half hour drive northwest of Phoenix, keeps many fans from attending games. However, when the team played at America West Arena (now U.S. Airways Center) in downtown Phoenix, their attendance numbers were very similar.

In fact, over the past decade the Coyotes average annual attendance has remained fairly consistent regardless of the arena, the team's performance or the ownership situation.    

If there are a significant number of passionate hockey fans in the area, would they not make the half hour, or even hour long drive to see the Coyotes play?

University of Phoenix Stadium is located next door to Jobing.com Arena and is always close to capacity for Arizona Cardinals games. There are other arenas and stadiums playing host to professional sports teams that aren’t located in the downtown core of a city. The Ottawa Senators for example, play at Scotiabank Place, which is about a half an hour drive from Ottawa.  

There may be hockey fans in the Phoenix area and perhaps the game is growing in the southern U.S. However, there doesn’t seem to be enough fans willing to buy tickets to support the Coyotes. Don’t forget, the Coyotes are far from the most popular draw in Arizona. They have to compete with professional football, baseball and basketball teams, not to mention numerous college sports teams.

Regardless of the reasoning, the Phoenix Coyotes have consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance and struggled financially ever since they first arrived in Arizona.

According to an ESPN report regarding the NHL’s purchase of the team in 2009, the Coyotes had yet to turn a profit since moving to Arizona in 1996.

Forbes.com provides annual evaluations of each NHL teams worth, revenue, operating income, etc. In each of the last four years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) the Coyotes were the NHL’s least valuable franchise. On top of that, the Coyotes' value and operating income have been decreasing since 2008.

Considering these financial problems, one would assume there would be a strong push for the team to relocate, but that isn't the case. The NHL and the city of Glendale have remained committed to hockey in Arizona.

Even with the successful return of the Jets to Winnipeg, a city with a population of only 730,000—it doesn’t appear as though the Coyotes will go the way of the Thrashers and make the move north, at least not yet. 

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