Glendale hires firm to lead post-Coyotes makeover of Gila River Arena

Jan 11, 2022, 1:00 PM
(Facebook Photo/Gila River Arena)...
(Facebook Photo/Gila River Arena)
(Facebook Photo/Gila River Arena)

PHOENIX — The city of Glendale announced Monday it has hired a global architectural and engineering firm to reshape the primary focus of Gila River Arena after the Arizona Coyotes vacate the venue.

The city-owned arena on the south end of the Westgate Entertainment District has been anchored by the Coyotes since opening in 2003.

In August, the city said it would not renew its agreement with the NHL team beyond the current season. The Coyotes are looking to build a new arena in Tempe but haven’t finalized any plans for a future home.

Gila River Arena has regularly hosted concerts and other entertainment over the years when the Coyotes weren’t playing. City Manager Kevin Phelps told KTAR News 92.3 FM that Glendale wants the firm it hired, HOK, to create a renovation plan to make those types of events the facility’s primary function.

“We think a variety would be good and we think our venue is really well suited for it,” he said.

In addition to concerts, Phelps said the arena could host events such as professional bull riding or other growing indoor sports, like lacrosse.

He compared Gila River Arena to The Forum in Inglewood, California, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers and other pro teams.

Phelps said The Forum was renovated to be nothing but a concert venue and had become the top-grossing arena in the U.S. for concerts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not a bad model — obviously the Los Angeles market is a whole other animal — but the reality of it is we think that the growing Maricopa County here in the Valley, that it could support a major concert venue like this,” Phelps said.

The Coyotes’ departure will make it easier to schedule a variety of events year-round, Phelps said.

“Not being tied down to six months out of the year to having prime dates being locked in for a sports franchise will allow us to offer more routing opportunities for entertainment,” he said.

“We are very comfortable and very confident that we’ll see our concert numbers go up dramatically.”

Phelps said renovation will focus on improving the guest experience with an eye toward improving the revenue potential.

“At the end of the day … we want fans to walk out the front door feeling like they just exited a brand new facility,” he said.

Phelps believes the design of the core elements of the renovation will take the rest of this year, with the aim of starting construction in January 2023.

HOK and Gila River Arena management company ASM Global have worked together in the past with Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center, which opened in 2007.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Debra Dale contributed to this report.

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Glendale hires firm to lead post-Coyotes makeover of Gila River Arena