GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thousands queued up in a line that wrapped around the parking lot, patiently waiting for their first glimpse inside the Phoenix Coyotes' glitzy new arena.
The open house Sunday elicited expressions of awe at the
building's grandeur and optimism that the fan base will grow
despite a 17-mile transplant from the America West Arena in
An estimated 12,000 visitors, many wearing jerseys in the team's
new brick red, saw the arena during the four-hour showing and gave
the players an ovation when they arrived for their first practice
in their new home.
The Coyotes finish up in Phoenix against Minnesota on Monday
night and then play four games on the road before opening the $220
million, 17,799-seat Glendale Arena on Dec. 27 against Nashville.
The former Winnipeg Jets have played in Phoenix since leaving
Canada in July 1996.
With the NBA's Phoenix Suns controlling all parking, concessions
and suite revenue in America West, and a balcony blocking the view
of one end from 4,000 of the arena's hockey seats, the Coyotes were
a losing proposition from the start.
The franchise has dropped an estimated $75 million since Steve
Ellman and Jerry Moyes bought it in February 2001. Moyes, a
trucking magnate who lives in Glendale, played a big role in
persuading the city to spend $180 in tax dollars on the arena, then
had to arrange for another $40 million in September to complete it.
"I've been seeing this in my mind for three years," Ellman
said. "Today, I'm just seeing it with my eyes open. The fans are
really seeing a venue that's one of the best build in professional
sports. It should be, because we borrowed from everyone else's."
Left wing Tyson Nash, an offseason addition to the team, said
the new venue should give the team a boost.
"No question, the home-ice advantage is huge in the NHL, and if
we can establish ourselves in this building, it's going to be huge
for us in the long run," Nash said.
After determining the arena couldn't be finished before the
season, the Coyotes had the league front-load their schedule with
road games, so they would have 28 home games left.
In addition to obstructed-view seats at America West, the
Coyotes and visiting teams have had to deal with sub-par ice and
stiff dasher boards which coach Bob Francis believes led to injuries last
"It's NHL ice," captain Shane Doan said. "It's going to be
pretty neat to move in here. This is built for hockey; that was
built for basketball. We're a tenant there, and we own this one."