Gila River Arena

Gila River Arena
Former names Glendale Arena (2003–2006) Arena (2006–2014)
Address 9400 West Maryland Avenue
Location Glendale, Arizona
Coordinates 33°31′55″N 112°15′40″W / 33.53194°N 112.26111°W / 33.53194; -112.26111Coordinates: 33°31′55″N 112°15′40″W / 33.53194°N 112.26111°W / 33.53194; -112.26111
Owner City of Glendale
Operator Global Spectrum and IceArizona, LLC[1]

Hockey: 17,125

Max: 19,000
Broke ground April 3, 2002 (2002-04-03)
Opened December 26, 2003 (2003-12-26)
Construction cost US$220 million[2]
Architect Populous (then HOK Sport)[3]
Project manager ICON Venue Group[4]
Structural engineer John A. Martin & Associates, Inc.[5]
Services engineer Syska Hennessy Group, Inc.[6]
General contractor Perini Building Company[7]
Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes (NHL) (2003–present)
Arizona Sting (NLL) (2003–2007)
Arizona Rattlers (AFL) (2016)
Venue Website

Gila River Arena (originally Glendale Arena and formerly Arena) is a sports and entertainment arena in Glendale, Arizona. It is located about 12.5 miles (20.1 km) northwest of downtown Phoenix.

The Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League (NHL) has been the primary tenant since the building opened on December 26, 2003. It sits on the north side of West Maryland Avenue across from University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the National Football League's (NFL) Arizona Cardinals. The venue anchors the City of Glendale's Westgate Entertainment District just east of Arizona Loop 101.

The now-defunct Arizona Sting also had played four National Lacrosse League (NLL) seasons at the arena until their 13–11 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks in the 2007 Champion's Cup game. Negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement originally delayed the start of the 2008 NLL season, but the Sting did not participate. They eventually ceased operations in 2009.

Completed at a construction cost of US$220 million, it seats 17,125 for hockey and lacrosse, 18,300 for basketball and about 19,000 for concert events. The arena has 3,075 club seats and 87 luxury suites (including two Luxury Tower Suites). It also features a completely integrated video, scoring and advertising system from Daktronics.[8]

After officially acquiring ownership of the Coyotes, IceArizona hired Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum as the arena management company on October 10, 2013.


Gila River Arena before a Coyotes game; from south end, looking north
Gila River Arena before a Coyotes game; from west side, looking east

The arena's construction broke ground on April 3, 2002 and the Coyotes moved into the arena in late 2003. Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers provided structural engineering for the arena. After relocating from Winnipeg on July 1, 1996, the team had spent its first 7½ seasons at America West Arena (now the Talking Stick Resort Arena) in downtown Phoenix. The AWA was not an old arena (it had made its debut as the new home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns only four years earlier in 1992) but it was primarily designed for NBA basketball. It was quickly retrofitted for hockey. However, the arena floor was just barely large enough to fit a regulation hockey rink, and several seats had badly obstructed views. As a result, before the team's second season in Phoenix, its hockey capacity had to be cut down from over 18,000 seats to just over 16,000—the second-smallest capacity in the NHL at the time. After the Colorado Avalanche moved from McNichols Sports Arena into Pepsi Center in 1999, and the Toronto Maple Leafs moved from the Maple Leaf Gardens to Air Canada Centre later in the same season, America West Arena was the smallest NHL venue. A small section of seats on the lower level actually hung over the boards, obstructing the views for up to 3,000 spectators.

When the Coyotes were sold to a partnership led by Steve Ellman, that group committed to building a new arena in suburban Glendale. With agreements signed with the city of Glendale in 2001, the venue opened midway through the 2003–04 NHL season as the Glendale Arena on December 26, 2003, with the Arizona Sting of the National Lacrosse League defeating the Vancouver Ravens, 16–12, the 2004 NLL season opener. The first NHL game was held the next evening, as the Coyotes dropped a 3–1 decision to the Nashville Predators on December 27, 2003.

The arena was originally scheduled to receive the 2006 National Hockey League All-Star Game. However, the new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement signed following the 2004–05 lockout cancelled the game, as under the terms of the new agreement, the All-Star Game would not be held during the year of the Winter Olympics in order for players to participate in the Games. Many expected Glendale to gain the 2009 NHL All-Star Game as compensation; however, the Montreal Canadiens and their arena, Bell Centre, were awarded the 2009 All-Star Game to celebrate the team's centennial.[9] Arena then was awarded the 2011 edition, but due to the ongoing bankruptcy case, potential ownership changes in the Coyotes organization, and the possibility of relocation, the NHL decided to reopen bidding to host the game, which went on to the Carolina Hurricanes' RBC Center.[10][11] The Coyotes' current owners, IceArizona, are still interested in getting an All-Star Game in Glendale.[12]

Beginning in 2005, the venue has been host to the Arizona state high school basketball, volleyball, wrestling and cheerleading tournaments in a mega-event called "February Frenzy", as the result of a formal agreement between the city of Glendale and the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA).

The Arizona Sting did not play after the 2007 season and fully ceased operations in 2009.

Since 2004, the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series bull riding tour has hosted an annual event at this venue (except for 2006 when the event was held at Chase Field).

Prior to the 2009–2010 season, this was the only current NHL arena to have never hosted a playoff game, as the Coyotes' last playoff appearance was in 2002 when they still played home games in downtown Phoenix. However, the team qualified for the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, ending that drought. They played the Red Wings and lost the series 4–3. The 2010–2011 Coyotes season ended at Arena with a 4-game sweep of the Coyotes by the Detroit Red Wings.

The arena saw extra action during the 2011–12 NHL season as the Coyotes not only qualified for the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in five games. Every home playoff game as in years past featured a "White Out", continuing the tradition of years past in both Phoenix and Winnipeg playoff series of giving fans white T-shirts to wear for the games.

The Arizona Coyotes missed the playoffs during the next 3 seasons, concluding the second half of the 2014–2015 season with a NHL worst record of 8–29–4.[13] Losses mounted toward the $50 million, 5-year out clause for the Coyotes. Coyotes ownership continued to revolve, as Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway was announced as the new majority owner in December 2014, only to back out as majority owner less than 6 months later. Losses for the City of Glendale on the arena management agreement continued to run at nearly $10 million annually.[14]

On June 10, 2015, the Glendale City Council voted to terminate the arena contract with IceArizona. Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh and council members Jamie Aldama, Lauren Tolmachoff, and Bart Turner cited conflict of interest laws asserted to apply to Craig Tindall, former Glendale city attorney. Tindall was hired by IceArizona about seven weeks after the city originally approved the IceArizona contract. Councilmen Samuel Chavira and Gary Sherwood opposed voiding the contract. IceArizona has threatened legal action against the city.[15][16] On July 27, a new deal was arranged where Glendale's management deal was reduced from $15 to $6.5 million per year, while the Coyotes would get all the ticket and ancillary revenue from hockey and concerts at Gila River Arena for up to two years.[17]

Tindall resigned his city post in 2013 upon request of the mayor and council. Tindall was subsequently the subject of an ethics complaint regarding his purported conflict of interest between his work for IceArizona and his Glendale post. He was still receiving city severance pay at the time IceArizona hired him. The complaint was filed by former city councilmember Phil Lieberman.[18]

After Tindall resigned from the City of Glendale, a press release announced that he had joined the well-known Phoenix law firm Fennemore Craig.[19] However, that firm's website has no mention of Tindall.

Naming rights

Naming rights to the arena were initially held by—a Phoenix-based employment website—under a 10-year, $30 million deal established in October 2006.[20]

On August 13, 2014, the Coyotes terminated their naming rights deal with, and announced a new nine-year naming rights and sponsorship deal with Gila River Casinos—a group of tribal casinos controlled by the Gila River Indian Community. No financial terms were announced. Team CEO Anthony LeBlanc described the new naming rights deal as the "most significant deal" made by the team under its new IceArizona ownership.[21] With the deal, the Gila River community became the first federally recognized Native American tribe to hold a naming rights deal with a venue for one of the major North American professional sports leagues.[22]

Other events

The first musical concert at the then-Glendale Arena was by Bette Midler on February 13, 2004.[23] While the arena gets fewer events than possible due to Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Gila River Arena averages 14 non-hockey events per year.[24] During Super Bowl XLIX at nearby University of Phoenix Stadium, the Gila River Arena hosted a "Super Bowl Club" hospitality event prior to the game.[25]

In July 2016, the Arizona Rattlers announced their playoffs schedule plans which included moving the Arenabowl to Gila River Arena due to scheduling conflicts with their usual home Talking Stick Resort Arena. The game became official on August 13 when the Rattlers won the National Conference Championship and clinched home field advantage for the Arenabowl. On August 26, 2016, the arena officially hosted ArenaBowl XXIX, which featured the Philadelphia Soul and the Arizona Rattlers in front of 13,390 fans. This not only became the first Rattler Home Game to take place outside of their original home but became the first ever event at Gila River Arena to be broadcast across the country on ESPN.


  1. "Coyotes Purchased by IceArizona, Will Change Name to Arizona Coyotes After Next Season". New England Sports Network. Fenway Sports Group/Delaware North. August 5, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  2. Flannery, Pat (December 27, 2003). "Today's the Day. This Is Just the Beginning: A Milestone in West Side's Rise". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  3. Arena architect: Populous
  4. " Arena". ICON Venue Group. December 26, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  5. "JAMA / Sports & Recreation". John A. Martin & Associates Inc. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  6. "Creating Exceptional Environments". Syska Hennessy Group, Inc. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  7. " Arena". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  8. "Daktronics Photo Gallery: Arena".
  9. TSN: NHL – Canada's Sports Leader
  10. McCreary, Joedy (2010-04-08). "Carolina to host 2011 NHL All-Star game". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  11. Branecky, Paul (2010-01-21). "Canes Bidding to Host 2011 All-Star Game". National Hockey League. Archived from the original on 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  12. New Phoenix Coyotes owners want to bring NHL All-Star Game to Arizona
  15. Corbett, Peter. "Glendale council votes to kill Coyotes deal". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  16. Sunnucks, Mike. "Glendale votes to kill deal with Arizona Coyotes". Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  17. Glendale council unanimously approves new Coyotes arena deal
  18. Giblin, Paul. "Ex-Glendale city attorney Tindall disputes ethics complaint". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  19. "Tindall joins Fennemore Craig's Phoenix office". AZ Business Magazine. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  20. ", Glendale Arena deal confirmed". Phoenix Business Journal. American City Business Journals. October 25, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  21. "With New Naming Rights to Their Arena, Arizona Coyotes Make Economic Statement". Bleacher Report. August 13, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  22. "An Arizona tribe is going to be the first to have naming rights to a professional sports arena". Washington Post. August 14, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  23. Bette Midler wows Glendale Arena crowd
  24. Glendale's Gila River Arena concert attendance short of projections
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Arena.
Preceded by
America West Arena
Home of the
Arizona Coyotes

2003 – Present
Succeeded by
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