A Q&A with Xavier Gutierrez, President and CEO of Coyotes after touring the ASU Multipurpose Arena

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Arizona State University hosted a tour of its soon-to-open multi-purpose arena for local media on Monday. In attendance were ASU CFO Morgan Olsen, ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, Sun Devil Athletics CFO Frank Ferrara, and Xavier Gutierrez, President and CEO of Coyotes, whose team will use the arena as their temporary home for at least the next three seasons while awaiting news from the Tempe City Council on its proposed permanent home on the south bank of the Rio Salado.

Reporters were allowed to take photos and video of the interior, which is still under construction but is expected to be completed in October. They also saw the area at the northeast corner of the building where the Coyotes will set up their team areas, including locker rooms, practice areas, equipment rooms, feeding stations, coach washrooms, team camp, and home and away NHL-quality gymnasium.

Several other upgrades will also be made to meet NHL standards, including dedicated ice factory cooling capacity, improved broadcast infrastructure, media and medical services, and analytics and playback capabilities.

Here is a view of the bowl.

Here is another view from the suite and press level.

Here’s a video my colleague Steve Peters shot.

Seating capacity is just over 5,000 seats for ASU games. Seating capacity for NHL games has not yet been determined. Here is a breakdown of the seats:

General Seating: 2,510
Club places (also in shell): 576
Seats at the drinks bar: 266
Premium seats: 340
Suites (20 plus two group suites): 284
Upper Lodge: 20th
Rinkside boxes (bunker seats): 20
Grandstand seats: 838
Party deck, standing room and ADA compliant: 319
The venue also features a 28-seat press box.

I have written extensively about this place.

If you would like a virtual tour of what the arena will look like and feel like, here is a link.

If you would like to read my exclusive Q&A with Morgan Olsen after the Board of Regents approved the plan last week, follow this link.

After the tour, Olsen and Gutierrez posed for photos and answered questions from the media in both group and individual interviews. Here is my personal interview with Gutierrez.

How do you feel about this interim solution?

I certainly hope that this action and our commitment will be a true testament to all those people who had concerns and doubts that we are fully committed to the Valley. We are about to invest over $25 million in cash; Alex Meruelos money in a temporary solution. We’re very hopeful that this is finally the answer people wanted to hear about our commitment to be here.

Again, this is a temporary solution. We have a bigger vision, we have a bigger proposal for a more permanent facility that puts our capital back on the line to make sure the taxpayers aren’t on the hook, that the city of Tempe isn’t on the hook, this is going to be ours be money We will be responsible for everything that is built on the campus of the permanent facility.

Speaking of commitment, there’s a chance you could lose even more money at this facility than Gila River Arena through the loss of naming rights, associated arena revenues like parking, and a lower capacity. What is your stance on this?

We’re very confident that given the central location, with this rabid fan base, this rabid corporate base, and so many community partners who have asked us to look for much more centrally located options, the demand is there. This is a hockey town. We’ve said that from the start, what we need is an arena solution to really super serve that demand and that fan base and that waiting fan base.

This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a much more permanent fix, but this is exciting. It’s a brand new facility. It’s on a campus with 80,000 students. Located in the heart of Tempe, we know we will have a phenomenal NHL hockey experience at this facility.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at his press conference ahead of the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas that there’s a prediction that you’re actually going to make more money than at the Gila River Arena. can you address that

Commissioner Bettman said it, we’ve made our projections and it tells you everything you need to know about the need for a more permanent facility that from all our projections there will be no significant financial impact if we go into that facility , and in many cases it will actually be significantly better.

How do you balance between raising ticket prices to make up for lost revenue at a smaller venue and raising ticket prices to avoid upsetting your fan base?

What people need to realize is that every seat is a lower seat. You only have 13 lines. So if you think about the prices of lower bench seats across the NHL and live sports, we won’t be that far from what people pay for being so close to the rink, the ice and the players. We know there’s going to be a scarcity premium because there just isn’t enough inventory, but that’s not just for the ticket holders, it’s for the corporate partners, for all the people. We have said very transparently that this is the option, it is temporary, we are willing to put our money into it and it will make some difference. But if you think about what low-bowl seating is, what we’re projecting isn’t that different from the NHL’s other premium seating. You’ll have such a close, intimate connection with the players.

There has been much speculation about seating capacity for NHL games. When do you think you will know this number?

There was a lot of misinformation out there and the reason I can say this is because these awesome people wearing Mortenson (Company) hats can’t even tell you what that is. We’re very confident speaking to Oakview Group, the manager of the facility, and to Mortenson, the general contractor, and the project manager here, that this is going to have a lot of seating, a lot of premium seating, it’s going to be suites, like 20 or so , there will be about 10 lodges or so so there will be many opportunities for people to come and watch the coyotes and have this amazing experience. I can’t tell you what the final number is because I wasn’t told. I don’t think they know in large part because we invest to make sure this facility is up to NHL standards in terms of broadcasting, media rooms and all of that stuff.

Is the deal signed and finalized?

We must complete everything that has been put before the Board of Regents. The deal is done, the transfer is literally imminent, so there’s no going back. There are no changes. It’s just a lot of documentation. The deal is mostly done. The closure is pending. And we’re excited.

Are you privy to the ongoing talks between the league and the NHLPA?

The best thing you can do is talk to the people at the league office. For any players who have concerns, all I can say is that I understand because they hear from the outside, “This is a collegiate arena” and “It’s so small” and “Do these guys really have a plan?” I can Tell them this is a plan, we have it and we are willing to put our capital into it. This is a brand new facility. That’s not lipstick on a pig. This is a state of the art brand new facility. We’re investing over $25 million to reach the NHL standard. And besides, what else are we going to do? We go to the Ice Den (Scottsdale) which is the practice facility and we actually buy a space and turn it into our permanent workout and weight room.

Where is the room you are talking about near the ice cave?

It borders the Ice Cave. It is located in the large office complex that surrounds the Ice Cave. We make the commitment you would want to the NHL standard that players expect. So these are the things that we show them. We will not sacrifice ourselves. This is a temporary solution, but we are committed to it.

What else can you reveal about the addition to the ASU Arena?

It will be connected to the arena, but I can’t really show you guys yet. There will be an entrance straight in from the guarded parking lot. This will be as safe as you would expect from an NHL team. It will have two floors and will be 15,000 square meters.

How committed are you to keeping the Roadrunners in Tucson?

Having the Roadrunners in Arizona is certainly something we’re committed to, but there are some challenges in Tucson. This facility is a challenge. It doesn’t have the kind of assets you would want to try and make it financially viable. We have a lease there and we’re not necessarily looking at moving them until we’ve looked at what our potential options might be.

Tucson is great. It’s a great market and we know he supports the Roadrunners, but once again this facility doesn’t have the kind of amenities to create the financial opportunity we want.

What can you reveal about the renovations currently taking place at the Tucson Arena?

We have had one of the highest fees charged by the City of Tucson on our tickets for many years. These fees were obviously intended for investments in the facility. You’re starting to make part of that investment now. We would like to see a lot more. A lot more. As for the rest, your best bet is to ask the folks down there.

You’ve raised it numerous times, but the airport issue keeps popping up with reports citing noise, trajectory, and expansion concerns related to your proposed permanent arena.

We have made it very public that the proposal we are putting forward is and will be in accordance with the FAA. We’ve had many FAA advisors, and we’ve made that very public as well. We don’t do anything in the dark. We were very transparent.

Has Tempe City Council received the economic, transportation, noise, gaming and other assessments for the proposed permanent arena project?

Our understanding is that they have a range of advisors, bond counsel, bond underwriters, market viability. From our understanding, they have either received it or will receive it soon. We are not responsible. It is a process that is not in our hands but we remain very confident that what we have presented is very compelling. I think the fact that we’re going to be literally present in their city is a pretty compelling demonstration of our commitment, a demonstration of our financial commitment and financial capability. So we hope the city sees that and takes the next step.

Top Photo: A depiction of the future home of Sun Devil Hockey, courtesy of Mortenson Company and ASU

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