City of Tempe to decide this week if Coyotes arena vote can go to citizens

Nov 8, 2022, 8:37 AM

A rendering of the Arizona Coyotes' proposed Tempe arena revealed June 2 after a 5-2 Tempe City Cou...

A rendering of the Arizona Coyotes' proposed Tempe arena revealed June 2 after a 5-2 Tempe City Council vote to continue negotiations on the plans. (Courtesy Arizona Coyotes)

(Courtesy Arizona Coyotes)

The city of Tempe will meet Thursday to decide whether a May 2023 special election ballot will include a public vote on approving or rejecting the Arizona Coyotes’ proposed arena and entertainment district.

The special meeting will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at Tempe City Hall on 31 E. Fifth St.

“If the council passes the resolution, they would be declaring the possibility of holding a special election on May 16, 2023,” the city of Tempe said in a press release. “That action would not indicate city council approval of the overall project. The council will consider the project itself later this month.”

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

That’s just one hoop to jump through before the Coyotes can break ground on the land on Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway.

Tempe’s city council already had plans to hold special meetings about the entertainment district on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29.

A three-pronged vote of approval by the city council on Nov. 29 is required before the vote potentially goes before citizens in May 2023.

The city and Bluebird Development’s proposal of the project, which has been planned by the Coyotes and Meruelo Group, will decide three items at the end of the month: a development and disposition agreement (DDA), a general plan amendment and a zoning amendment.

“Should the council approve these items on Nov. 29, various entities may take out petitions to refer the ordinances to the May 2023 ballot,” Tempe’s statement said. “If any entities get the required number of legal petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, Tempe voters would then decide whether the project should move forward.

“If the council rejects any of the three items on Nov. 29, the development would not move forward and there would not be a need for a May election regarding these items.”

The Coyotes plan to invest $2.1 billion in private funds into the proposed development, which includes finding more funding “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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