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NHL’s Coyotes hit by fresh blow as ASU exits arena project

The long-term future of the Arizona Coyotes has again been called into question after Arizona State University (ASU) exited a deal to develop a new arena for its sports teams and the NHL ice hockey franchise.

In November, the Coyotes announced that the proposed facility, which remained subject to approval from various parties, would be located in the district alongside Tempe Town Lake and boast more than 16,000 seats.

The main arena was set to be complemented by an attached 4,000-seat multi-sport arena, which would be used to host Coyotes training sessions and youth team games, in addition to ASU college ice hockey matches and various community events.

The project had a projected price tag of around $400m (€372.4m), but ASU on Friday said it had no intention of proceeding with a development agreement, an option to lease or any other partnership with the Coyotes. The university did not specify reasons behind its decision, but legislation introduced in a bid to create a funding package for the project has swiftly drawn opposition.

Coyotes president and chief executive Anthony LeBlanc said in a statement reported by the Arizona Republic newspaper: “Unfortunately, it appears the ASU deal will not be moving forward. We will continue to explore other options that will ensure a successful future for the team and our fans. We're a determined bunch – on the ice and off the ice. We intend to do everything we can to keep NHL hockey here in Arizona.”

The future of the Coyotes has been uncertain for some time now. The team was operated by the NHL for four seasons after its former owner took the franchise into bankruptcy in 2009, while Glendale City Council cut an original 15-year deal for the team to play at its current Gila River Arena home.

The agreement was signed in 2013, but a legal dispute in 2015 led to the two parties signing a shortened deal that will expire following the 2017-18 season. Gila River is the Coyotes’ second Arizona home since moving to the state in 1996, having also previously played at the America West Arena in Phoenix.