In 1996 the Winnipeg Jets relocated to the Valley of the Sun and were reborn as the
Phoenix Coyotes. America West Arena in downtown Phoenix became their new home, but it
was plainly evident that this could only be a temporary arrangement. America West was
built for basketball - the home of the NBA Phoenix Suns, and its intimate seating
configuration was well suited for hoops action but horrendous for hockey. The result -
thousands upon thousands of obstructed view seats. Plans were launched again and again
for different arena plans - the "Los Arcos" project in suburban Scottsdale was the most
ambitious, combining a hockey arena with a shopping mall, but that plan unraveled. Time
passed, and eventually a huge tract of land was acquired in Glendale, a suburb northwest
of Phoenix. Construction for the Coyotes new home began in 2001, and on December 27,
2003, the puck was dropped at the new Glendale Arena for the very first time, ushering a
new era for NHL hockey, here, in the deserts of Arizona.

Getting to the venue
Finding Glendale Arena is a snap, as the venue is located directly off Loop 101, an arterial
expressway which winds its away around Phoenix's northern suburbs. Wide boulevards
and ramps provide access to an elaborate road system which takes you into the arena
property itself. There is nothing surrounding the venue except for wide open spaces and
plenty of onsite parking. Parking for Coyotes games is free. Let's repeat that... parking for
Coyotes games is FREE, the only franchise in the four major sports to offer complimentary
parking for fans attending the event.
Public transportation to the games is non existent... Phoenix and its suburbs is a huge
sprawling metropolis, with subdivisions, stores, schools and expressways going up so fast
they can barely keep up. Car transportation around these parts is an absolute must.

Outside the venue
For now Glendale Arena rises out of the horizon in the middle of a huge vacant tract of
land. But that is about to change, and in a very huge way. Right next door is the Arizona
Cardinals new stadium, the framework going up and should be open in time for the 2006
NFL season. And Glendale Arena is the centerpiece of a massive project called "Westgate".
This 6.5 million square foot development will consist of shopping centers, malls,
entertainment venues, lofts, apartments, public park spaces, all with the arena serving as a
focal point of an exciting synergy of (sub)urban planning. Shovels are ready to go into the
ground soon, and when this project is done, will transform the arena project and this area
into a vibrant and dynamic cityscape, unprecedented in sports venue construction.

Patrons going to Glendale Arena today will enter, for the most part, through gate 4, the
main entrance to the arena, and a nicely landscaped public plaza awaits, with floodlit palm
trees, benches, a large video board overlooking the main gate, and temporary stages with
entertainment, as well as booths selling souvenirs and local radio stations promoting their
wares. All makes for a nice gathering place. And chances are good that you will be enjoying
the warm and balmy winter weather that only Arizona can offer during hockey season.

Architecture and seating bowl
The designers of this arena took elements of other NHL venues which have opened in
recent years and incorporated them here. The main entrance plaza looks strikingly similar
to the pavilion at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Florida. In the seating bowl there are
stacked party suites in each corner, reminiscent of the configuration at Nationwide Arena in
Columbus. The upper deck concourse is at the top of the seating bowl, same as at the Xcel
Energy Center in St. Paul, and an outdoor Party Deck is similar to those in Dallas and Tampa
Bay, where visitors can enjoy refreshments in the sultry Arizona air.

The outside of the building is brown and cooper colored granite with plenty of glass
accents, and at night vertical neon strips shine brightly as a beacon, along with plenty of
floodlit landscaping the venue looks as nice at night as it does during the day.

The seating bowl is configured in two decks, and in between those decks are two levels of
luxury suites. Seats are all colored wine red, and interestingly, the upper deck seating
balcony has a very steep vertical pitch, putting those fans right on top of  the action. A
great way to enjoy the game! As is the case with the new venues, Glendale Arena has all
the 21st century technological enhancements - 360 degree surround LED boards along the
balcony with companion ribbon boards scrolling underneath the scoreboard. And speaking
of scoreboard, this one is a wide screen four sided affair, with dot matrix boards stacked
above. All very nicely presented. Out of town scores for the NHL and NBA are continually
scrolled on a panel on the surround board.

Concourses
Nice, clean and brightly lit concourses throughout the arena, with soft recessed lighting
and sparkiing terrazzo tile floors, but the color scheme does seem to lend itself to being a
bit sterile looking. However on the positive side, most spots in the upper and lower levels
offer views of the seating bowl and the action on the ice.

Escalators are located on the north end of the building and take fans to all levels. The
building is very easy to navigate, with plenty of wide public spaces.

Concessions
Food selection offers quite a variety of delicacies, and not just one that are near and dear
to the local culture. Sausage Haus' offering brats, Delis with your favorite cold sandwiches,
New York style pizza, even a Japanese cuisine stand all to be found at Glendale. And of
course the aptly named Tortilla Flats with its selection of nachos, burritos, churros and
other local fare. The team store is named "Coyotes Den", with a nice selection of
merchandise and can be found near the main entrance.

Premium Seating
In addition to two levels of luxury suites, the Coyotes offer the Lexus Club, a second level
seating perch in one end zone, with private entrance, nicely appointed bar area and
premium food selections including a buffet. Patrons sitting along the glass have access to
a separate club lounge at ice level, where fans can watch the players up close as they
make their way onto the ice. An outdoor party terrace is also available to premium ticket
holders.

Banners/Retired Numbers
There is but one banner hanging high in the rafters at Glendale Arena, and that is for #99,
Wayne Gretzky, now part of the Coyotes ownership group. The banner is done in Coyotes
team colors. Thankfully, the Coyotes haven't raised some silly and ridiculous banner like
"Most Wins In A Season When The Outside Temperature Is 80 Degrees Or Above", and for
that, we are profoundly grateful.

Hat tricks, assists, penalties...

Hat trick ... to Phoenix Coyotes President and CEO Doug Moss, and also to Coyotes
VP/Communications Rich Nairn, who went the extra mile to make our visit to Glendale Arena
truly special. Doug is former Buffalo Sabres Prez, so when we emailed him and told him two
roadtrippers would be coming from his old home town to pay a visit to his arena, he fixed
us up with terrific club seats. Doug and Rich met up with us during the game, gave us their
valuable time for an interview, and treated us with concession vouchers. Our humble
thanks to these two guys and we are proud to induct Doug and Rich into the Ultimate
Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame.

Assist ... speaking of former Buffalo people (and we run into Buffalo transplants
EVERYWHERE, how come nobody ever moves TO Buffalo?), former Buffalo radio
personality Barry Buetel now works for the Coyotes as game host for the Coyotesvision
telecast in the arena. We stopped by the in-arena studio and got a chance to chat with
Barry for a few minutes before the game.

Penalty ... Yes, again, we tangle with game day staff who are proud graduates of the
Sphincter Police Academy. An octagenarian who we'll call "Gramps" was the usher at the top
of our section, C-7. Every time we left our seats, for whatever reason, he would come down
to our row once we returned and demand to see our tickets. Andrew finally blew up at
Gramps and he then backed down. Keep in mind, this was the Lexus Club, one has to go
through two ticket checkpoints just to get IN to this area of the building. But read on...

Penalty, and game misconduct ... To "Carlos", the usher in sec 111/112, which is lower level
center ice. We meandered down there with about four minutes left in the game, figuring to
grab some photos and then set up for our official "in the building" shot. Keep in mind, the
home team was down 3-1, and the fan exodus was well underway.  Well, surprise, surprise,
Carlos would not let us pass, even though we held a more expensive seat then the ones
he was so zealously guarding. When the game concluded, we blew by him, to snag our
photo before the lights dimmed. Well Carlos comes down and starts chirping at us how
"we're in the way" and to hurry and finish up. Or else WHAT, Carlos? The game is over!
Everyone has left! "I'm just doing my job", he mutters. No Carlos, you're not doing your job.
Your job is to make your paying guests feel welcome, not intimidated. Your job is to
exercise a little discretion in application of the rules. A nice gesture would have been to
hold the camera and take the picture, but your arrogant and disgusting behavior was an
embarassment to your team and for us, a blight on what was otherwise a perfect evening.

Assist ... Don't let the above stories reflect on everyone we encountered in the building.
We were warmly greeted when we entered, game day staff were more than happy to direct
us around, and courtesy was the norm. Just a shame how a few Napoleonic bad apples
could ruin it for all.

Penalty ... once again, our karma wilts in the intense heat of the Arizona desert as the
Coyotes are dominated by Kings team in the hunt to make the post season. The final tally is
3-1 and the game was really not all that competitive.

Hat trick ...  To the Coyotes "HOWL". The howl is the signature chant when the home team
scores, when the music is jacking up the fans, and is unique to this team. All very cool!

Assist ... An elaborate display of the Westgate project is near the main lobby, and murals
along with a scale model of the setup are all nicely presented.

Summary
Our assessment of these new venues always focuses on what is new and unique, a
"signature element", so to speak, and it is in this department that Glendale Arena falls
short. This building is nice, very nice, but what is here to set it apart from the rest? Not only
are there no unique designs, but attractive features of other arenas were integrated into
this venue, and what you have here is a mish-mosh that one could call "best of NHL
arenas".

What would we suggest? First of all, give the lobbies and concourses a proprietary decor.
How about southwest design - Native American and southwest art, accents and patterns
that are unique to this region (go see San Antonio's SBC Center). For now this building
could be replicated in any city in America and one wouldn't miss a beat. Second, do
something to celebrate the team's history. Backlit photo panels of Coyotes great moments,
players etc., adorning the corridors would do much to personalize the place. And yes, do
something to showcase the franchise's move from Winnipeg. The story is a compelling one,
and the franchise has a great history that include the buzzwords Avco Cup, portrait of the
Queen hanging in the rafters, and the "whiteouts", where fans dress in white for the playoff
games, a tradition which made its way south. This story deserves a place here. Third. Will
the arena be truly integrated into Westgate, or will it be just a building in the
neighborhood? We like sports venues in active and vibrant urban settings, and how this
evolves and comes together will be something to watch. Lastly, with people pouring into
this region in droves to live here, there should be enough of a market to fill this place. For
now, scoring a Coyotes ticket is no challenge here.

For architecture, design, event presentation and future plans for Westgate, we still give
Glendale Arena high marks. And the frosting on the cake has to be that FREE PARKING. Still
shakin' our heads over that one!

Can't wait for a return visit in Fall 2006 to see what it all looks like then!


SCORING:

Architecture 4
Food and team store 7.5
Scoreboard and electronics 8
Ushers 1.5
Fan support 4.5
Location and neighborhood 4
Banners and history 6
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: USRT Red carpet treatment 4; Free parking 3; Doug Moss is the Prez 1;
No obstructed seats like the old place 1

Total: 58.5
Gila River Arena
Glendale
Arena                                                                        

Glendale
Arizona




March 10,
2004                                   


Los Angeles
Kings
at
Phoenix
Coyotes



renamed
Jobing.com
Arena,
October,
2006

renamed Gila
River Arena
August,
2014