|Former names||Glendale Arena|
|Address||9400 W Maryland Ave|
|Owner||City of Glendale|
|Capacity||Ice hockey: 17,125|
|Broke ground||April 3, 2002|
|Opened||December 26, 2003|
|Construction cost||US$220 million|
($317 million in 2020 dollars
|Project manager||ICON Venue Group|
|Structural engineer||Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers, Inc.|
|Services engineer||Syska Hennessy|
|General contractor||Perini Building Company|
|Arizona Coyotes (NHL) (2003-present)|
Arizona Sting (NLL) (2003-07)
Arizona State Sun Devils men's ice hockey (NCAA) (2015–present, some games)
Located about 12.5 miles (20.1 km) northwest of downtown Phoenix, the arena was built 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 was to serve as a temporary home venue for the Indoor Football League's Arizona Rattlers during the 2021 season, but this would not be needed. Phoenix Suns Arena completed its latest renovation while it was closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. That allowed the Rattlers to return there instead.
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).
After the Phoenix 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 (now Ball Arena) in 1999 and the Toronto Maple Leafs 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
In 2018, a new scoreboard was installed, which had previously been used at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan (former home of the Detroit Pistons) before it was closed in favor of Little Caesars Arena.
The Coyotes terminated their agreement with Jobing.com 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. 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.
The first music concert at then-Glendale Arena was by Bette Midler on February 13, 2004. While the arena gets fewer events than Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Gila River Arena averages 14 non-hockey events per year. During Super Bowl XLIX at nearby University of Phoenix Stadium, the arena hosted a "Super Bowl Club" hospitality event prior to the game.
Due to a schedule conflict with a Phoenix Mercury game at Phoenix Suns Arena, 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. on September 22, 2016.
The arena hosted UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori 2 on June 12, 2021.