It was a big save off the ice, as the Roadrunners will be back in Tucson for the 2024-25 season.

On Thursday, the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners held their first news conference since their parent AHL team moved to Utah.

“We made it clear from the beginning that we wanted the Roadrunners here,” said Fletcher McCusker, chairman of Rio Nuevo.

Roadrunners general manager Bob Hoffman, who’s had that role since the team’s inaugural 2016-2017 season, heard the public comments by owner Alex Meruelo that he planned to move the team to Tempe or at least play half its games there.

“Imagine the predicament he was in,” added McCusker. “He can’t say, ‘Over my dead body,’ because there would have been a dead body.

“We wanted to find a path,” said Hoffman. “How can we make this work? How can we carry the Tucson Roadrunners flag statewide without a full fledged relocation.

As fans gathered 3,500 signatures for a petition to the AHL to keep the team in Tucson, Hoffman made a case to the AHL’s Board of Governors about the team’s impact in the community and on the ice.

Roadrunners attendance was up 14% over last season, and 61 players have reached the NHL since teh team’s inception. Financially, Rio Nuevo made concessions as the Tucson Arena extended its lease with the Roadrunners, and there are now three years remaining.

“So our decision to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to keep the team satisfied the team’s concern about the economic difference between Tucson and Tempe,” said McCusker. “Not only did the Roadrunners stay here, but our city benefited to the amount of ten million dollars.”

The deal that was made has the Roadrunners playing 30 of its 36 home games at the Tucson Arena, with the other six at the Mullet Arena in Tempe. The Roadrunners hope that Meruelo will win next Thursday’s land auction in North Phoenix and the Coyotes will return as an expansion team.

“We want to have an AHL franchise forever,” said McCusker.

For now, the Roadrunners will remain Utah’s AHL team, this as the Roadunners are set to welcome their one millionth fan next season.