Arizona Coyotes sale to Utah Jazz owner expected this week, AP source says

By Ignacio Ventura
Associated Press
Published: Monday, April 15, 2024 - 8:53am

The Arizona Coyotes will likely be sold to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith shortly after the team's final game and will include a provision guaranteeing current owner Alex Meruelo an expansion team if a new arena is built within five years, a person with knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press on Saturday.

The $1 billion sale is expected to happen between the Coyotes' final game of the 2023-24 season on Wednesday and the start of the playoffs on Saturday, barring unforeseen circumstances, the person said on condition of anonymity because the planned deal has not been announced.

The deal will transfer the franchise's hockey operations first to the NHL and then to Smith, who plans to move the team to Salt Lake City, and Meruelo will maintain business operations to move forward with a planned $3 billion project that will include a new arena in north Phoenix. Meruelo also will continue to own the Tucson Roadrunners, the franchise's AHL affiliate, and plans to move the team to Mullett Arena in Tempe, the current temporary home of the Coyotes.

Once an arena is built, Meruelo will pay back the $1 billion and move forward with the expansion franchise.

Meruelo and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman are expected to announce the deal at a joint news conference next week once the deal is completed. Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong traveled to Edmonton on Friday night to inform players and coaches of the team's plans after news of the potential relocation to Salt Lake City were leaked.

The news comes following the announcement this month that the team is trying to develop a new arena in the city of Scottsdale.

Reactions to the news varied in Arizona over the weekend, including criticism of ownership for continuously failed efforts to keep the team in the state.

“I hate the fact that we’re losing an NHL franchise. I don’t ever like to see us go backwards here in the Valley or in the state when it comes to losing things. But in this case, it makes sense," said Brad Cesmat, the CEO of Sports360AZ.

Cesmat also says the Coyotes have struggled to gain wide fan support in the Valley.

In 2023, Tempe voters chose not to approve a new arena and entertainment district for the team despite heavy effort to build one.

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