Over the last decade, Glendale has become quite a sports hub.
Normally, this time of year the Westgate Entertainment District would be buzzing, with the pre- and post-game crowds from Arizona Cardinals games at State Farm Stadium and fans spilling out of Arizona Coyotes games at Gila River Arena.
But “normal” is perhaps the least appropriate word to describe 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic year.
The Cardinals kicked off their home season Sept. 20—but with no fans allowed.
As such, sports bars like McFadden’s at Westgate had just a smattering of fans. McFadden’s is next door to Gila River Arena, which normally is also a magnet.
While the 2020-21 Coyotes season was scheduled to begin this month, the 2019-20 season was pushed back by the pandemic. A Stanley Cup champion has yet to be crowned.
Though the Coyotes made the playoffs, the team’s quick exit was only the beginning of a bad run.
The Coyotes are way behind on rent payments.
The city owns Gila River Arena but has a management agreement with ASM Global.
“A representative of ASM has informed us that the team has an outstanding balance that was due to ASM by June 30 but has not been paid,” City Manager Kevin Phelps said.
Asked about this, Richard Nairn, executive vice president of the Coyotes, said, “We have no comment.”
“ASM is current on all payments to the city,” Phelps noted. He said ASM’s agreement with the city gives them until Nov. 1 for its next payment. “We have been assured by ASM that they will make their payment by that contractual deadline,” Phelps said.
Dale Adams, ASM’s general manager of the Gila River Arena, sounded unworried about the situation.
“We’re working with the Coyotes now with the situation being what it is,” Adams said.
“There’s no emergency. … It’s a non-issue as far as I know right now.”
He noted top management of the hockey team has changed.
“It’s a new group they got there with their own ways of doing things. Things got delayed, and we’re working with them,” Adams said.
The Coyotes started the 2019-20 preseason Sept. 15, 2019, and the regular season two weeks later.
The only certainty about the 2020-21 hockey season is that it won’t start on time.
Speaking from the “playoff bubble” in Canada before the Stanley Cup Final round, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he “would not be surprised” if the start date for the 2020-21 season “slips into later December, (or) could slip into January,” according to ESPN.
That is about the time frame that Adams expects concerts to resume at Gila River Arena.
He said ASM Global, which has 300 stadiums, convention centers and theaters, is preparing for a resumption of mass gatherings with VenueShield, a hygiene protocol.