Gila River Arena

Coordinates: 33°31′55″N 112°15′40″W / 33.53194°N 112.26111°W / 33.53194; -112.26111

Gila River Arena (originally Glendale Arena and formerly Arena) is a sports and entertainment arena at the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, Arizona.

Gila River Arena
Gila River Arena logo.png
Gila River Arena Gate 4 Entrance.jpg
The north entrance of the arena, 2020
Former namesGlendale Arena
(2003–2006) Arena
Address9400 W Maryland Ave
LocationGlendale, Arizona
OwnerCity of Glendale
OperatorAEG Presents[1]
CapacityIce hockey: 17,125
Max: 19,000
Broke groundApril 3, 2002 (2002-04-03)
OpenedDecember 26, 2003 (2003-12-26)
Construction costUS$220 million[8]
($313 million in 2019 dollars[9]
ArchitectHOK Sport[2]
Project managerICON Venue Group[3]
Structural engineerJohn A. Martin & Associates, Inc.[4]
Services engineerSyska Hennessy[5]
General contractorPerini Building Company[6]
Arizona Coyotes (NHL) (2003–present)
Arizona Sting (NLL) (2003–07)
Arizona State Sun Devils men's ice hockey (NCAA) (2015–present, some games)
Arizona Rattlers (IFL) (2021)[7]
Venue Website

Located about 12.5 miles (20.1 km) northwest of downtown Phoenix, the arena was built just east of Arizona Loop 101 (Aqua Fria Freeway) and on the north side of West Maryland Avenue at a construction cost of $220 million. The Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League (NHL) have been the arena's primary tenant since it opened on December 26, 2003.

It also serves as a temporary home for the Indoor Football League's Arizona Rattlers while Talking Stick Resort Arena undergoes renovations. The former Arena Football League team is expected to play their 2021 IFL home games in Glendale.[7] The now-defunct Arizona Sting also played four National Lacrosse League (NLL) seasons there between 2004 to 2007.

Gila River Arena has a seating capacity of 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.[10]


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

After the Coyotes relocated from Winnipeg in 1996, they spent their first 7+ seasons playing at America West Arena. Although not an old facility – it had opened as the new home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns only four years earlier – America West Arena was primarily designed for basketball and had to be quickly retrofitted for hockey. The arena floor was barely large enough to fit an NHL regulation size hockey rink and several seats on the upper level actually hung over the boards. That obstructed the views for up to 3,000 spectators. As a result, before the team's second season in Phoenix, its hockey seating capacity was cut down from 18,000+ seats to 16,210 — then the second-smallest capacity in the NHL. After the Colorado Avalanche moved from McNichols Sports Arena into Pepsi Center in 1999 and the Toronto Maple Leafs moved from Maple Leaf Gardens into the Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) later in the same season, America West Arena was the smallest NHL venue.

When the Coyotes were sold to a partnership led by Phoenix real estate developer Steve Ellman, that group committed to build a new arena in the neighboring Phoenix suburb of Glendale. With a lease agreement signed with the City of Glendale in 2001, construction began on the new facility on April 3, 2002, and the venue was officially opened midway through the 2003–04 NHL season as Glendale Arena. The National Lacrosse League's Arizona Sting hosted the very first sporting event in the new arena, a 16-12 2004 NLL season opening victory against the Vancouver Ravens on December 26, 2003. The very next evening, the Phoenix Coyotes hosted their first game before a standing room-only crowd of 19,052 in their new home, that resulting a 3–1 loss against the Nashville Predators. Their first win in Glendale was on December 31, 2003, with a 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

Gila River Arena was originally scheduled to host the 2006 National Hockey League All-Star Game, but it was cancelled. Under terms of the new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed to end the 2004–05 lockout, the All-Star Game would not be held on the same year as the Winter Olympics in order to allow NHL players to participate in the Olympics their native countries. Many expected Glendale to eventually get the 2009 NHL All-Star Game as compensation; instead, the game was then awarded to Bell Centre to celebrate the Montreal Canadiens centennial.[11] Then the Coyotes were to be awarded the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, but due to their ongoing bankruptcy case, potential ownership changes and the threat of a possible franchise relocation, National Hockey League officials decided to reopen bidding to host the game. It was held at PNC Arena (formerly RBC Center) on January 30, 2011.[12][13]

Between 2004 and 2013, the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series (formerly the Bud Light Cup) bull riding tour was held at Gila River Arena (except 2006 at Chase Field).

Since 2005, the arena has been the host venue for the Arizona state high school basketball, volleyball, wrestling and cheerleading tournaments in a mega-event called "February Frenzy", resulting from 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.

Prior to the 2009–2010 season, this was the only current NHL arena that had never hosted a playoff game. At that point, the Phoenix Coyotes' previous playoff appearance was in April 2002 when they still played home games in downtown Phoenix. However, the team finally ended that drought by qualifying for the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Once again, it was short lived with a 7-game Western Conference Quarterfinals loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The Coyotes lost to the Red Wings again in 2011, but they got swept in 4 consecutive games.

Playoff hockey returned to Gila River Arena for a third straight spring after the Phoenix Coyotes finished the 2011–12 NHL season with a 42-40 record and 97 points. That was enough to secure the franchise's first Pacific Division title. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time, losing to the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in 5 games. Every home playoff game as it has been in years past featured a "White Out", continuing the tradition in both Phoenix and Winnipeg where fans wear white T-shirts.

Then the team's playoff success dried up. They ended the second half of the 2014–2015 regular season with an NHL worst 8-29-4 record, their first season under their new name, the Arizona Coyotes.[14] Team ownership has evolved since IceArizona's purchase on August 5, 2013. Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway became the new 51% majority owner on December 31, 2014. Losses for the City of Glendale on the arena management agreement continued to run at nearly $10 million annually.[15]

The Glendale City Council voted on June 10, 2015 to terminate the arena lease contract with IceArizona. Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers, vice mayor Ian Hugh and Glendale City Councilmembers Jamie Aldama, Lauren Tolmachoff and Bart Turner cited conflict of interest laws asserted to apply to former Glendale City Attorney Craig Tindall. IceArizona hired Tindall about 7 weeks after the city originally approved the IceArizona contract. Councilmen Samuel Chavira and Gary Sherwood opposed voiding it. IceArizona threatened legal action against the city.[16][17] However, a new deal was reached between the two parties on July 27, 2015 where Glendale's arena management contract was reduced from $15 million to $6.5 million per fiscal year. This is while the Coyotes would get all the ticket and ancillary revenue from hockey and concerts at Gila River Arena for up to 2 years.[18]

With Andrew Barroway as the sole owner, the Arizona Coyotes along with the City of Glendale and Anschutz Entertainment Group (the arena manager) announced on August 16, 2018 that a relatively new scoreboard was purchased and installed in time for the start of the 2018-19 season. The scoreboard was originally used from late 2014 until mid-2017 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the now-former NBA home of the Detroit Pistons.[19] Subsequently, the Pistons joined the Red Wings to play at the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit, which opened on September 5, 2017.

Naming rightsEdit

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

The Coyotes terminated their agreement with and then immediately announced a new 9-year naming rights and sponsorship deal on August 13, 2014 with Gila River Casinos — a group of tribal casinos that are controlled by the Gila River Indian Community. Now-former Coyotes President/CEO and Alternate Governor Anthony LeBlanc described the new agreement as the "most significant deal" made by the team under its new IceArizona ownership.[21] With it, 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 eventsEdit

The first music concert at then-Glendale Arena was by Bette Midler on February 13, 2004.[23] While the arena gets fewer events than 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 arena hosted a "Super Bowl Club" hospitality event prior to the game.[25]

Due to a schedule conflict with a Phoenix Mercury game at Talking Stick Resort Arena,[26][27][28] the Philadelphia Soul won ArenaBowl XXIX 56-42 over the Arizona Rattlers at Gila River Arena on August 26, 2016.

The arena hosted the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions.[29] on September 22, 2016.


  1. ^ "Coyotes Purchased by IceArizona, Will Change Name to Arizona Coyotes After Next Season". New England Sports Network. August 5, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  2. ^ Arena Archived October 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine architect: Populous
  3. ^ " Arena". ICON Venue Group. December 26, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  4. ^ "JAMA / Sports & Recreation". John A. Martin & Associates Inc. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "Creating Exceptional Environments". Syska Hennessy Group, Inc. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  6. ^ " Arena". Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Obert, Richard (July 29, 2019). "Arizona Rattlers will play at Gila River Arena in 2020, possibly 2021". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "Daktronics Photo Gallery: Arena".
  11. ^ TSN: NHL – Canada's Sports Leader
  12. ^ McCreary, Joedy (April 8, 2010). "Carolina to host 2011 NHL All-Star game". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  13. ^ Branecky, Paul (January 21, 2010). "Canes Bidding to Host 2011 All-Star Game". National Hockey League. Archived from the original on January 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  14. ^ "Arizona Coyotes Schedule - 2014-15". Arizona Coyotes. 2016. Archived from the original on March 17, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  15. ^ Duensing, Thomas F. (June 11, 2015). "FY15-16 Arena Budget Package" (PDF). City of Glendale. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  16. ^ Corbett, Peter. "Glendale council votes to kill Coyotes deal". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  17. ^ Sunnucks, Mike. "Glendale votes to kill deal with Arizona Coyotes". Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  18. ^ Glendale council unanimously approves new Coyotes arena deal
  19. ^ "New Scoreboard for the Coyotes". The Faceoff. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  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
  25. ^ "Super Bowl XLIX Gameday Fan Guide". NFL. February 1, 2015. Archived from the original on January 25, 2015. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  26. ^ Klapper, Clayton (August 14, 2016). "Arizona Rattlers to host ArenaBowl XXIX in Glendale on August 26". Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  27. ^ Sunnucks, Mike (August 17, 2016). "Football fix: Glendale to host ArenaBowl, Cards' last practice on same day". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  28. ^ Obert, Richard (August 17, 2016). "Rattlers expect large crowd for ArenaBowl in Glendale". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "2016 Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions takes center stage beginning Sept. 15". Retrieved March 26, 2019.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Home of the
Arizona Coyotes

2003 – present
Succeeded by