Report: Alex Meruelo is stepping away from Arizona Coyotes’ ownership

(Video by Jack Bartlett/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The Alex Meruelo-Arizona Coyotes relationship is over.

PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan reported Monday night that team ownership informed the staff earlier in the day that the club no longer has interest in pursuing arena options.

This comes on the heels of news about the cancellation of an auction for land that Meruelo hoped could house a new arena and entertainment district.

The land located north of Loop 101 and Scottsdale Road was set to become a central hub for hockey in Arizona, with plans to build a 17,000-seat arena and entertainment district for Phoenix and Scottsdale. But in their latest effort to make progress, the Coyotes reportedly failed to bring on a zoning attorney to assist them with their building permits, causing concern for the Arizona State Land Department, according to the Arizona Republic.

Ultimately, the ASLD felt it was best to cancel the auction and “reorder the steps” to ensure a proper bidder was in place.

Alex Meruelo has scrambled to find a permanent home for the Coyotes ever since the team left Gila River Arena. (File photo by Spencer Barnes/Cronkite News)

Alex Meruelo told Arizona Coyotes staff that he is no longer interested in pursuing an arena. (File photo by Spencer Barnes/Cronkite News)

“The organization has worked in good faith with the ASLD and has been on track to win the auction next week until the sudden reversal by ASLD today,” the Coyotes said in a statement, adding that the cancellation of the auction meant the state was forgoing “millions, potentially billions, of dollars that would have gone directly to K-12 education.”

Phoenix councilman Jim Waring directed the blame at Meruelo.

“Get a zoning attorney,” Waring told the Arizona Republic. “They don’t have one. Get in the city, come up with a plan and go through the process. Then buy it.”

“If they had that attorney from the start and that attorney realized that they needed this permit then they could have gone that direction and not let the auction get canceled a week before,” said Leah Merrall, a PHNX Sports digital content manager and PHNX hockey host. “It was shocking to them that the auction was canceled a week out but I feel it is their responsibility to do the due diligence to make sure everything they need before an auction like this is done.”

Since the city of Glendale demanded the franchise pay $1.3 million owed for unpaid taxes in December 2021, Meruelo had scrambled to find a permanent home since leaving Gila River Arena. It presented another delay after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman forced the sale of a team to Smith Entertainment Group in Salt Lake City, Utah, for over $1 billion.

The team’s previous home setup at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena located on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus did not meet the league’s standards and lost revenue for the franchise and league. Under agreement with the NHL, the Coyotes’ move to Tempe was meant to be short-term as long as a proposal was made to build a new arena. An arena in Tempe was proposed last May, but voters ultimately rejected ballot measures that would have allowed the team to follow through on their plans for the arena and entertainment district.

The Arizona Coyotes had an arena and entertainment district planned in north Phoenix before an auction was canceled by the Arizona State Land Department. (Rendering courtesy of Arizona Coyotes)

The Arizona Coyotes had an arena and entertainment district planned in north Phoenix before an auction was canceled by the Arizona State Land Department. (Rendering courtesy of Arizona Coyotes)

Following the rejection of the Tempe arena proposal, the Coyotes shifted their focus to north Phoenix.

“The Tempe vote was the next big step in the process,” Merrall said. “However, we all know what happened, and it didn’t end up that way.”

The large stretch of land in north Phoenix had been appraised at around $70 million. The franchise was given the go-ahead to attempt the bid for the land when the auction was posted.

On April 4, the Coyotes promised the city and the NHL that they would win and begin a three-year process to build a new stadium and entertainment district. The auction was set for Thursday due to rules that required the land to be available for at least 10 weeks.

With no players or staff, Meruelo and the Coyotes had full focus going into this week’s auction. The plan was in place, and Meruelo was set to make the winning bid.

Now he is walking away, and his days as a Coyotes owner is over.

Dylan Slager(he/him)
Sports Digital Reporter, Phoenix

Dylan Slager expects to graduate in December 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is seeking his first internship in the fall.

Jack Bartlett(he/him/his)
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Jack Bartlett expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in political science. He has interned with the St. Joe Mustangs and the Music City Collegiate League in Nashville.