Big plans in and around Phoenix Coyotes

12/14/2005 - NHL Phoenix Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You have to have really good eyesight to see the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. You have to be able to see beyond the expanse of scrabbly desert floor that stretches out in all directions from the Coyotes' home at Glendale Arena. You have to see beyond the scaffolding and cement pads that have just now begun to dot the area outside the arena's main entrance.

It's the kind of eyesight majority owner Steve Ellman hopes fans, businessmen and investors have. Within two years, the Glendale Arena will be the eastern anchor of the first phase of an ambitious development by Ellman that will include 500,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and loft-style office space on a 225-acre parcel of hitherto nondescript desert land.

The long-term plan for the Westgate City Center calls for five hotels, the first of which is a Renaissance property and will have 320 rooms and 80,000 square feet in conference space.

Past the jumping fountains, the office structures and the Times Square-style electronic commercial boards, is a Loews theatre, the biggest in the state with 4,000 seats, set to open next fall.

More than 60 percent of the occupants of the development's first phase have already been finalized. Including letters of intent on file, that figure is significantly higher, Ellman's officials report.

The entire 450-acre development, which will include residential property is five to seven years from completion. With an estimated price tag of $850 million, it's being trumpeted as one of the biggest developments of its kind in America.

The Coyotes' immediate neighbors are the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, whose new home, an ugly silver canister, is currently under construction to the south of the hockey arena. Although significant development is also planned for the Cardinals' site, there is a 10-year moratorium on developing that property, which in theory should give the Coyotes' development time to mature.

In some ways, the development around the Glendale Arena is reminiscent of the Corel Centre in Ottawa. Team officials in Ottawa were flayed after the Senators' new home was plunked in the middle of a pasture on the western edge of the Canadian capital. It was hoped that development would grow around it like an attractive flower bed. Although it took far longer than anticipated, the results are now being seen.

Ellman has already paid a $1-million penalty for tardiness in the construction of the development's first phase. One has to imagine the Coyotes' window of opportunity will be smaller than in Ottawa, given the team's record in the past and the distance fans must now travel from the more populated eastern side of the valley.

But if experts are correct, this western end of the valley is about to become the next frontier for one of the most attractive destinations in America. With the eastern areas developed to the maximum because of the presence of native reserves and national parks, developers like Ellman are busily securing tracts of land in the west and northwest of the city, in hopes that the economic boom continues.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.