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Rio Nuevo board moves to draw pro hockey to town

Posted at 3:19 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 20:55:38-04

Tucson moved one step closer to landing a professional hockey team. 

The Rio Nuevo board approved $3.2 million in funding for phase one of renovations at the Tucson Convention Center, where the Phoenix Coyotes' American Hockey League affiliate team will begin play next season, pending final negotiations with the City. 

Construction will be completed by October to bring the arena up to AHL standards. Money for the renovations comes from a combination of Rio Nuevo tax funds and a possible ticket surcharge. 

The Arizona Coyotes organization is in the final stages of purchasing the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons American Hockey League franchise. 

The team will play in Tucson a minimum of five years, pending City approval. They could sign a lease for 10 years. 

A second phase of renovations is needed at the TCC that would also require about $3.2 million in funding. The board discussed in Tuesday's meeting the possibility of instead using that money toward a separate practice facility for the Falcons. 

The facility would be located within Rio Nuevo's district and double as a public ice rink when the team is not using it for practice. 

The facility could also be utilized by the Arizona Wildcats hockey team, who currently travel to Chandler, Ariz. to practice to avoid conflicts with the TCC. The total estimated cost to build this facility is a little more than $8 million. 

The Arizona Coyotes also said in Wednesday's meeting they are in the final stages of bringing pre-season Coyotes hockey to the TCC. 

Tucson has not had a professional hockey team since the Tucson Gila Monsters shuttered in 1999. Tucson hasn't had a permanent pro sports franchise since the Tucson Padres baseball team left the city in 2013.