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Arizona Coyotes sign arena rights deal with Gila River Casinos

The Arizona Coyotes hope a new sponsorship agreement with Gila River Casinos will bring in more money for the team and the city of Glendale.

On Wednesday the team announced a nine-year agreement to rename their rink Gila (pronounce hee-lah) River Arena. It was the latest in a line of long-term corporate contracts the Coyotes have entered into to entrench themselves in Arizona.

"This is all about the economic viability of this club," co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told a conference call. "This is the most significant deal that we have in our corporate sponsors."

As long as this deal is approved Sept. 9 by the Glendale City Council, the building formerly known as Jobing.com Arena will have its new name the next day. LeBlanc, part of the team's Canadian-led ownership group, said the city will receive US$600,000 from the agreement and that he didn't expect approval to be a problem.

LeBlanc didn't reveal how much the Coyotes will get from the new agreement. The previous deal with Jobing.com that the team terminated was reportedly worth $30 million over 10 years.

Gila River Arena will be the first North American professional sports stadium named by a federally recognized Native American tribe. It will also be the first named after a casino, but LeBlanc didn't express any concern about connecting the NHL team to a gambling institution.

Gambling on hockey and other sports is illegal in the state of Arizona. Gila River's three casinos offer slots, poker and other table games.

"Obviously we went through our due diligence in the process, and we worked very closely with the National Hockey League ... to ensure that it falls within the requirements, and obviously it did," LeBlanc said. "This wouldn't have been announced without the league blessing it."

Since new ownership closed its deal to buy the Coyotes in August 2013, it has put a priority on selling tickets and suites and picking up more corporate sponsors to grow the team's reach. That hasn't stopped speculation and criticism from the outside, though LeBlanc again brushed it off Wednesday.

"I couldn't care less what the critics have to say," LeBlanc said. "None of our motivation has to do with anyone's going to be critical about this franchise. If they're critical, they quite frankly don't understand what it is that we're doing."

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