Could Salt Lake City Support the Phoenix Coyotes?

Michael Wagner@MichaelDWagnerSenior Analyst IMay 21, 2009

With all this talk of the Phoenix Coyotes being moved from Phoenix to Hamilton, Kansas City, or even to Toronto, I thought to myself, why not relocate them just to the north, to Salt Lake City, Utah?

You might ask, why Salt Lake? How could the NHL be successful in a rather small-market city?

Easy: The club would have limited competition in a relatively small sports arena. The reason that I think Salt Lake City could be a successful market for the NHL is because the biggest competition that they would face would be the NBA's Utah Jazz, a team that's been the staple of the Utah sports community for 38 years.

Recently, the city of Salt Lake recieved a Major League Soccer team, Real Salt Lake, and they've just finished building a stadium for the team. But attendance for Real Salt Lake has been down ever since they were founded; it fell 16.1 percent last season.

But enough about soccer; this is about hockey and how the city would be able to support them. Salt Lake City already has two venues in place that could support an NHL franchise: Energy Solutions Arena and the slightly smaller E-Center.

Energy Solutions (formerly the Delta Center) is the home of the Utah Jazz and has a listed capacity of 14,000 for ice hockey, which would put the Coyotes at the bottom of the league capacity-wise. But the smaller stadium could be benefit the team in that they would grow and play in front of full stadiums to build their fan base.

If Energy Solutions Arena is not a possiblity, then the city would need to look at the E-Center, which holds 10,000 and is the current home of the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies. Yes, it is a small staduim, but if Salt Lake City is committed to supporting another sports team, you'd have to imagine that they could renovate the E-Center or build a new venue.

Many believe that Salt Lake would be unable to support an NHL team, but doubters don't seem to realize that the city has a great hockey community. Most high schools in the area have a club hockey team, and the community has successfully supported the IHL throughout the 1980s and '90s.

Another big reason that a move to Salt Lake City would be in the best interest for the Phoenix Coyotes is that they could still retain much of their fan base. The Coyotes would only be making a 500-mile move, one much shorter than one to Kansas City or any Canadian city.

Although I would love to see the Phoenix Coyotes stay in the great state of Arizona, I believe that the team's owner and the NHL are definitely going to relocate the team.

If Gary Bettman does want to keep hockey team in the United States as opposed to moving them to Canada, then he will need to look at multiple major cities in the United States, including the major-sport deprived Salt Lake City.

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