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Coyotes fume over canceled land auction

The scheduled auction of a land parcel in north Phoenix was canceled on Friday, prompting the Arizona Coyotes to declare that the move “seriously jeopardizes the future of NHL hockey returning to the desert.”

Alex Meruelo sold his existing hockey franchise to the owners of the Utah Jazz in April, and the club was moved to Salt Lake City. However, Meruelo retained the rights to the Arizona Coyotes name, and the NHL awarded him the right to start an expansion franchise if he were able to build a new arena in the Phoenix area in the next five years.

The Coyotes’ plan was to build on the north Phoenix lot that was set to be auctioned off by the Arizona State Land Department next Thursday. However, the state scrapped the auction, stating that the Coyotes need to receive a special-use permit to build the 17,000-plus-seat arena they have proposed.

The ASLD’s statement included, “It is not uncommon for ASLD to require applicant to secure zoning/use permits prior to auction.”

The team responded in a statement, “The Arizona Coyotes are exploring all our legal options given this shortsighted decision by the state.”

The Coyotes added, “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. … By cancelling the land auction, the state is forgoing millions, and potentially billions, of dollars that would have gone directly to K-12 education.”

Jim Waring, the Phoenix councilman whose city covers the land the Coyotes hope to buy, told the Arizona Republic, “(The Coyotes should) get a zoning attorney. They don’t have one. Get in the city, come up with a plan and go through the process. Then buy it.”

The starting bid for the 95-acre property had been set at $68.5 million.

–Field Level Media

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