The Arizona Coyotes NHL hockey team was at risk of eviction from the Gila River Arena this week after failing to provide funds for unpaid arena charges and delinquent tax bills. The City of Glendale, Az. threatened to bar employees and vendors from entering the stadium until the team paid over $1.3 million in unpaid taxes.
ESPN reported on Thursday that the team came through with the payments the previous night, avoiding being locked out for unsettled bills. So how did the team almost reach the point of eviction?
On Wednesday, a notice was sent to both the Gila Arena Management company and the Coyotes’ CEO and team president Xavier Gutierrez, warning that their business license would be revoked if they didn’t come through with the funds.
Seemingly blindsided, the team sent the unpaid taxes, settling the fees. The Arizona Coyotes were granted two extra days to pay should problems continue. Many fans wondered what was going on after ESPN broke the news of the NHL team’s possible eviction, especially since the organization had not announced that it was hemorrhaging money in any way.
The hockey team confirmed to The Athletic on Thursday that over a million dollars in taxes were paid off, avoiding the mysterious situation. Citing “human error,” the franchise later put out an official statement that called the events “unfortunate.”
“We have already launched an investigation to determine how this could have happened,” the Arizona Coyotes said. “Regardless, we deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused. We will make sure by tomorrow morning, the Arizona Coyotes are current on all of our bills and owe no state or local taxes whatsoever. And we will take immediate steps to ensure nothing like this can ever possibly happen again.”
This was not the first time that the Arizona Coyotes faced financial woes threatening their status in the league. Back in 2009, former owner Jerry Moyes was forced to turn the team over to the NHL after declaring bankruptcy. The NHL controlled the team for the next four years until the team acquired new ownership.
The franchise has also never won a Stanley Cup or a Conference Championship.
This past February, other damaging concerns arose surrounding the team, including claims of a “toxic” work environment and internal problems. Unpaid debts to vendors were a frequent occurrence, with some small-time vendors revealing to The Athletic that they were forced to accept payments that were significantly less than what they were originally owed. Other vendors also stated that they were pressured by the venue to accept reduced payments for their services as well.
“It was painful,” one unnamed employee said of the organization’s issues and toxic meetings of berated workers. “You wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
The Arizona Coyotes are still not entirely out of the clear. The team’s lease at Gila River Arena is almost up. Rented annually from Glendale, the city decided this past August that they would not be renewing their lease and the team would have to vacate the facility by June 30, following the end of the current 2021-2022 season.
According to The Athletic, the team was developing a $1.7 billion move to Tempe, Az., hoping to stay in Arizona, but negotiations have seemingly stalled. So have talks with Glendale about extending the lease, especially after the kerfuffle this week about owing them over a million dollars in unpaid taxes.
“We’ve reached that point of no return,” Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps told Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez back in August. “There’s no wavering.”
Phelps also reportedly alerted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on the matter, who has yet to comment about the future tenure of the Arizona Coyotes.