Coyotes’ Tempe plan leads to mix of concern, confidence at Westgate

If the Coyotes leave Gila River Arena, the people most affected could be the business owners and employees of the retail and restaurant tenants at Westgate. (Photo by Michael Boylan/Cronkite News)

GLENDALE – If the Coyotes are successful in moving to Tempe at the end of the decade, Gila River Arena, the Westgate Entertainment District and the city of Glendale will lose one of their centerpiece tenants.

That could pose a problem to the businesses surrounding the arena in Westgate.

“Well, obviously it’s a big blow,” said Alan Krier, managing partner of OPA Life Greek Cafe. “Not just us, but every retail and restaurant tenant in here.”

Nothing is definite, though. The Coyotes and their potential partner in the new arena, Catellus Development Corporation, will need to finalize a budget, design and operational plan by June 30, 2017. Then, they’ll need the state legislature to sign off on the financing. Those are all major hurdles.

To Krier, it’s all just speculation at this point. “I don’t think it means much,” Krier said. “I read the press clippings on it and to me it said a whole lot of nothing.”

Glendale City Councilmember Ian Hugh was confident Gila River Arena could still attract people out to Westgate, even without the Coyotes as an anchor tenant.

-Cronkite News video by Madalyn Heimann

“Our arena is a successful arena.” Hugh said. “No matter if the Coyotes are there or not, it’s going to succeed. They’ll just book other events.”

According to Gila River Arena’s website, there are two events other than hockey planned this month. One is a concert. The other is an Arizona State hockey game. If the Tempe plan is approved, though, the Sun Devils will move into a 4,000-seat arena on campus.

But even with other events, Krier said his business sees a 25 percent increase on Coyotes game days.

“The Saturday games you get a nice pop before and after games,” Krier said. “It’d be a hurt not having that crowd.”

Westgate has events going on almost daily, according to its website. Some include car and bike shows and small outdoor concerts. Hugh cited this as a reason why the area could still be successful without the Coyotes, who averaged 13,433 in attendance in 2015 and this season is averaging 13,360.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening nightly at Westgate,” Hugh said. “If the Coyotes leave, that’ll just open up the door to try and attract other activities in.”

Coyotes or not, Hugh said with reconstruction and repairs being completed on 95th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, there’s potential for growth at Westgate.

Already up and running is the Desert Diamond Casino, which opened in December, 2015 adjacent to Westgate.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included a headline that may have incorrectly represented reaction to the possible departure of the Arizona Coyotes from Glendale.