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Coyotes consider buy land for a hockey arena in Mesa

Fans watch as players warm up prior to the Arizona Coyotes’ home-opening NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona, on Oct. 28. (Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press)
Move follows Tempe voters’ rejection of referendum

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Coyotes said Wednesday that owner Alex Meruelo has executed a letter of intent to buy a piece of land for a potential arena in Mesa, Arizona, a positive development for the NHL team in its lengthy search to find a permanent home in the desert.

The move comes months after voters in Tempe rejected a referendum to construct an arena there. The Coyotes say they remain committed to building a privately funded rink and entertainment district and continue to explore other potential sites in the Phoenix area.

“We appreciate the tremendous support that we have received from many communities, elected officials and community leaders who have expressed their desire to see the Coyotes remain in the Valley permanently,” the team said in a statement. “We would also like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for their steadfast support of the club’s efforts to find a permanent arena solution and for their recognition that Arizona is a tremendous hockey market.”

The Coyotes are going into their second season at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University. New NHL Players’ Association executive director Marty Walsh has raised concerns about the situation there and said the union would like the team to figure out a sustainable long-term solution.

At the draft in Nashville in late June, team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said the Coyotes had identified six possible sites for a new building in the east valley in the 101 Highway corridor that covers the cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix and Mesa — none of which would require a public vote.

“We still want to put our money where our mouth is and build something that’ll be best in class,” Gutierrez said at the time. “We were disappointed with the vote in Tempe, but we turned the page very quickly.”

Weeks earlier at the start of the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas, Bettman reaffirmed the league's commitment to Arizona, where the team moved to in 1996 from Winnipeg. The team has since played in three different arenas, initially in downtown Phoenix, then Glendale and Tempe.

Arizona Coyotes fans wait for the doors to open prior to the Coyotes’ home-opening NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets at Mullett Arena in Tempe on Oct. 28. Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press