City council votes to send Coyotes arena plan to Tempe voters

Nov 10, 2022, 6:40 PM | Updated: 6:44 pm

The Tempe City Council voted Thursday to schedule and prepare for a May 16, 2023, public vote on a proposed arena and entertainment district that will be the future home of the Arizona Coyotes.

Under law, it’s required the city makes a public call for a special election 180 days ahead of the special election.

Before that special election happens, the city council itself at the end of this month must approve three things: a development and disposition agreement (DDA), a general plan amendment and a zoning amendment. The Tempe City Council has scheduled meetings for Nov. 22 and Nov. 29.

If any of those items do not pass, then there would be no need for a public vote in May 2023.

However, the referendum vote by the people of Tempe could ultimately decide the fate of the NHL franchise’s proposed home.

The Coyotes have aimed for a timeline to approve the project before the end of the calendar year, but there are potentially more hurdles than a vote from those Tempe citizens and its city council.

The city of Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport have strongly pushed back against the proposed arena — the parties even sent citizens of Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix mailers pushing against the proposal. The land at Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway sits underneath a flight path, and the entertainment district’s plans include 1,600-plus multi-family homes that the Federal Aviation Administration has strongly labeled as “incompatible” due to airplane noise.

There is potential for litigation in those regards, as the cities of Tempe and Phoenix have an Intragovernmental Agreement dating to 1994 about noise contours that were set up to help Sky Harbor grow as an airport.

Both Sky Harbor and the city of Phoenix have warned that flight path changes for landings and departures would slow air traffic, and create new noise and safety problems.

Another element in the timeline of the process in approving and building the Coyotes’ new home is that the land the Coyotes hope to develop sits on a former landfill that must be cleaned up.

What are the Arizona Coyotes’ arena plans?

The Coyotes will invest $2.1 billion in private funds into the proposed development, which includes a plan to find the necessary money “without raising taxes or using current city revenues by issuing public infrastructure bonds sold to private investors,” according to the project proposal’s website.

The NHL club owned by Alex Meruelo projects the entertainment district could create close to 7,000 jobs in Tempe and generate $180 million for the city alone over 30 years, among other benefits.

Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said in a presentation to the city council in September that he was “confident” there was support from residents for the entertainment district after the team conducted a survey about a potential move to the city.

Tempe had been analyzing the Coyotes’ proposed plans submitted on Sept. 2, 2021. The city council moved ahead with working with the NHL team on the proposal with a favorable June 2022 vote, 5-2.

The Coyotes ended their 19-year run at Gila River Arena after the 2021-22 season amid a strained relationship with the city of Glendale and moved into a temporary home at Arizona State University’s new Mullett Arena.

All of the Coyotes’ home games from 2022-23 through 2024-25 will take place at that arena, with an additional option for 2025-26.

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