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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Gila River Arena – Arizona Coyotes

Stadium Info FANFARE SCORE: 3.29

Gila River Arena 9400 W Maryland Ave Glendale, AZ 85305 Map It

Year Opened: 2003 Capacity: 17,799


Los Yotes

The Arizona Coyotes hockey team began as the Winnipeg Jets in 1972. Due to financial troubles, the Jets team moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Phoenix Coyotes. (Thankfully, Winnipeg now has a successful NHL team – one not to be missed when visiting NHL arenas). In 2014, the Coyotes changed their name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona Coyotes to be all-inclusive of Arizona and for marketing purposes.

The Coyotes first played at the America West Arena, now named the Footprint Center, before relocating to the Glendale Arena (now known as Gila River Arena) midway during the 2003–04 NHL season. The lease with the city of Glendale expires at the end of the 2021-2022 season. The city is not offering to renew it.

In September 2021, the team submitted a proposal to the city of Tempe for a $1.7 billion arena and entertainment complex. Many fans are excited about a new hockey arena on the east side of town. That motion is still in the works and plans for a temporary home while a new building is under construction have not been announced.

Stadium Journey says one final goodbye to Gila River Arena.

Food & Beverage 4

Gila River Arena has a wide variety of food selections; much more than your standard stadium fare. The arena is leaning towards using local restaurants for their concessions. The choices are much more preferable and varied on the first level than on the second level.

Examples include: Blue Line Deli sells tasty chicken Caesar salad, meatball heroes, and soppressata Caprese sandwiches ($12 – $13). Brat Haus (home of the big weenie) provides brats, burgers, and beer. Gadzooks sells its signature tacos. Streets of New York Pizza sells chicken wings and personal size pizza (including gluten free) for $7 – $13.

The Goal Line and the Center Ice stands provide the standard stadium fare of hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, pretzels, and candy, which run from $5 (candy) to $13 (souvenir popcorn).

Various carts like Wetzel Pretzels and Maui Wowi line the concourses. Domestic and premium beers cost $13 – $14; Pepsi products are a pricey $8 with bottled water $6.

Not quite sure why the city of Glendale didn’t put an Arizona Brewery stand on the concourse but instead one from San Diego – Saint Archer Brewing Company. It offers cocktails, hard seltzer, and draft beers.

All concessions are cashless.

Atmosphere 4

Gila River Arena and the Coyotes provide a noteworthy game day experience.

The arena has three levels of seating with suites between the first and second levels. Drink rails are provided on the second level (quite nice); though there are none on the first level (too bad). Loge Boxes and Loge Tables are in place of where drink rails would be on the first level. Fans can walk the entire concourse on both the first and second levels.

The steps are very steep on the second level; handrails are provided. Fans enter at the top of the concourses and then walk down to their seat rows with row A the closest row to the rink. The seats themselves are average width; there is almost no leg room between the rows.

In 2018, the city of Glendale (owner of the arena) and ASM Global (the organization that operates the Coyotes) installed a respectable, larger center hung scoreboard; it is the perfect size for the arena and provides fans with nice clear, crisp images and video simulcasts and replays. Closed captioning was not offered at the game Stadium Journey visited, but we were told it is normally on the ribbon board in the four corners of the rink.

The concourse columns have player images imprinted on them. Arizona high school, college, and club team jerseys are attractively hung in the main entrance area of the concourse. Seven former Coyotes players and Wayne Gretzky are recognized in Ring of Honor displayed on the facing above the top level of seats. Shane Doan #19 is the only Coyotes player’s number retired so far.

The temperature is quite pleasant in the arena. More NHL hockey arenas should take note. It is not cold in the rink and only a sweatshirt or jacket is needed. The music volume level is acceptable. Fans can have conversations during stoppages of play without yelling at each other except, of course, after a Coyotes goal when there’s a loud cannon boom and a whole lot of noise and welcomed cheering.

Neighborhood 5

The neighborhood is the Westgate Entertainment District, an outdoor mall and leisure activity zone which includes the rink, a movie theater, restaurants, live music, breweries, bars, shops, people watching, hotels, and more. These are all situated across the plaza of Gila River Arena.

Places in the district for a pre-game meal or drink include Yard House, State 48 Funk House Brewery, Fat Tuesdays, and McFaddens. Be sure to check their website for happy hour specials; some of them do not include event days or weekends. First Watch (breakfast/lunch), Manna Korean BBQ, Opa Life (Greek), Salt Tacos y Tequila, Whiskey Rose, Hot N Juicy Crawfish are all just steps away from the arena.

Plenty of fast food establishments like Chipotle, Crumbl (cookies), Cold Stone Creamery, Dutch Bros Cofee, Five Guys, etc. are also in the mall area.

For other things to do, a Dave and Buster’s and an AMC movie theater are in the mall area. The Desert Diamond Casino – West Valley is less than a mile from the arena.

Historic Downtown Glendale is just about five miles from Gila River. It has a few blocks of shops, antiques, crafts, a civic center, places to eat, and more. During hockey season, the weather is almost always pleasant, so visiting downtown is a way to pass an hour or two.

Hotels within walking distance of the arena include Hampton Inn and Suites, Home2Suites, Renaissance, and Aloft. More affordable hotels are just across Glendale Ave (still less than a mile distance) and include Residence Inn, Staybridge, Townplace, and Holiday Inn Express.

Other sports nearby during hockey season include the Arizona Cardinals football (across the parking lot from Gila River Arena). Grand Canyon University is a little over eight miles where sports fans can watch their baseball and very successful basketball teams.

Peoria Sports Complex is eight miles north on Loop 101 where the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres hold their spring training. The LA Dodgers and Chicago White Sox play their spring training games at nearby Camelback Ranch. Both of those stadiums also host Arizona Fall League games.

Fans 3

Arizona Coyotes fans are a faithful bunch. You’ll see all kinds of the various Coyotes team jerseys worn as well as many other NHL team jerseys. The fans are polite and enjoy their team. No worries about getting hassled if wearing an opposing team’s jersey.

Attendance dropped down to about 75% capacity in the late 2010s, but when Alex Meruelo took over the ownership in 2019, and with a winning season, attendance grew to 85% capacity (until COVID hit). Arizona Coyotes fans are excited about the new ownership as they had experienced instability and even bankruptcy in previous ownerships.

Access 2

Gila River Arena isn’t in downtown Phoenix but 13 miles in the northwest suburb of Glendale, right off Loop 101 and right next door to State Farm Stadium (home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals). The closest airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, about 20 miles.

Parking is abundant at $15 to $75 a spot surrounding the venue and the adjacent mall. Park at the mall and spend the $15 mall parking fee on food or drinks at participating venues, and those venues will take the parking fee off the receipt. The mall parking lot closes off many of their aisleways so it is a nuisance to find the best way to enter. If you don’t mind walking ¼ mile, park at the Tanger Outlets on 95th St for free and walk over. Traffic getting out of the parking lot after games is a mess. Hang out 15 – 30 min after the game for all that to settle.

Six gates are available for entry, with Gate 4 the most popular and directly in front of the Westgate Entertainment District and plaza area. Public transportation is not available at all to the arena; driving is the only method.

Gila River Arena has a mystifying, absurd no bag policy where fans are not even permitted to bring a clear 12“ x 6” x 12” bag into the building. Stadium administration told me fans in wheelchairs (who carry a bag larger than 4” x 6”) or fans with other medical items that don’t fit in 4” x 6” purse have to travel all the way to Gate 1 to enter the arena. It’s almost like the city of Glendale doesn’t want visitors at their venue, especially those with medical conditions. Here’s hoping the new arena does a better job.

Return on Investment 2

Food and drink costs are the standard higher amount stadium prices and no ‘value item menus’ are offered at Gila River Arena. Coyotes tickets range from $23 to $549+ (depending on the day and visiting team). Depending on visiting team, these are more affordable than other NHL teams.

With the no bag policy, no public transportation, and the distance from downtown Phoenix, it’s not quite worth the sports dollar investment.

Extras 3

The team has varied its logo over the years, beginning with a kachina-style coyote, then a howling coyote, and a crescent moon. The Coyotes have returned to the slick-looking kachina-style coyote for their last season in Glendale.

The Coyotes Den merchandise shop is large, bright, with plenty of room to walk around. It sells an abundance of clothing choices (all logos), and other items, including the prohibited clear stadium bags. You can buy them, but you just can’t use them here.

Located in the Westgate Entertainment District deserves an extra mention. Enjoy the water fountain displays in front of the arena.

Final Thoughts

With a new owner and a winning record, the Coyotes are drawing more crowds. The baffling and unfriendly arena entry rules and lack of public transportation make getting to Gila River Arena a difficult trip for some.

If you’re a hockey fan and want to make one last trip to Gila River Arena, do it this 2021-2022 season.

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Richard Smith
26 jun 2022

This temporary arena situation is going to be interesting.

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Meg Minard
Meg Minard
23 jun 2022

The Coyotes are temporarily moving to the new ASU hockey rink in Tempe AZ beginning the 2022-2023 season.

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