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Financial questions remain for Coyotes one year after purchase

Aug 10, 2014, 9:34 PM EDT

New York Rangers v Phoenix Coyotes Getty Images

IceArizona has owned the Coyotes for roughly a year now and while that purchase allowed them to avoid relocation, their long-term future in Glendale still isn’t secure.

The new ownership group has an out clause in its arena-lease agreement that will be triggered if the team loses a cumulative $50 million over five years. That prompted us to select the Coyotes fans themselves as our target in the 2013 edition of our Under Pressure series (if you missed it, it’s Mike Smith this year).

The hope was that fans who were put off by the lengthy period of relocation speculation would give the Coyotes another opportunity now that the team had a fighting chance to remain in Glendale. Additionally, it was believed that the Coyotes would be better marketed following the sale.

To that end, IceArizona deserves some credit, as Five For Howling noted:

The new owners also improved the game day experience at Jobing.com Arena with weekend tailgating, often attended by Team Chairman and Governor Gosbee barbecuing in the parking lots with fans. They also signed a deal to bring Canadian institution Tim Horton’s into the arena, giving relocated native Canadians living in the desert and newbies alike a chance to experience the joy of a coffee and Timbits.

The short-term payoff has been questionable though. The Coyotes were last in the league with an average attendance of 13,775 in 2013-14, according to ESPN.com. That’s down from 13,923 in the shortened season, but still an improvement over the average crowd of 12,420 they drew in 2011-12. An argument can be made that 2011-12 is a better comparison because it was the last full season.

Either way, Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc acknowledged that there’s plenty of work to be done.

“I’m probably a little disappointed in where we are with attendance,” LeBlanc said in December. “There are those marquee games like the Chicago game, which was obviously a very big night for us from the perspective that we broke the regular-season franchise record for gate revenue for a single game. But (two weeks ago), we had the Islanders and Carolina in town and there was roughly 10,000, 11,000 people in the building, and that’s simply not good enough.”

So one year into the IceArizona’s era and the jury’s still out as to whether or not it will be a success. Ultimately, the fate of the Coyotes might rest on the players themselves, seeing as the best way to draw a crowd is with a winning team.

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