Gutierrez: Coyotes optimistic about next steps in arena approval plans

Dec 3, 2022, 2:23 PM | Updated: 4:23 pm

Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez (Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images)...

Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez (Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez can see the sun rising on the horizon.

The Tempe City Council on Tuesday voted a clean 7-0 on three logistical items, effectively approving the NHL club’s arena building plans will go to a public vote in May 2023.

Now, it looks like citizens of Tempe will decide whether the team gets a new arena.

Internally, all signs point toward an approval coming next calendar year, Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez told Burns & Gambo of Arizona Sports.

“This was real validation about the vision of this project and as I’ve pointed out, a 7-0 vote, that wasn’t just seven individuals,” Gutierrez said Thursday. “These are individuals who have their ear to the ground of their constituents and so they’re really reflecting what we’re knowing to be just significant approval in the city of Tempe.”

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Tempe’s city council only voted 5-2 in June to enter into the negotiation phase with the Coyotes and their partners at Bluebird Development.

For example, councilmember Doreen Garlid, who initially voted against entering into negotiations in June, said she had concerns that Tempe rushed the request for proposal (RFP) process with the city.

She said then that the land up for development is one of the last large parcels the city could develop because it is landlocked and wanted more public input before a decision is made.

Flipping two votes in the city council wasn’t the only sign hurdles have been crossed this week.

The City of Phoenix Aviation Department on Wednesday said it had made massive progress in negotiations with Tempe about how building the proposed entertainment district would not impact the operation of Sky Harbor International Airport. The organization added it will continue working out a disagreement over interpretations of a 1994 intragovernmental agreement between Phoenix and Tempe.

“While the City of Phoenix Aviation Department still officially opposes the incompatible residential component of the Tempe Entertainment District development, we are grateful to the City of Tempe for taking actions to largely mitigate potential impacts of the development to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport,” the aviation department said in a statement this week. “We will continue to work with Tempe and the developer to move forward on the commitments made.”

It was another sign that the Coyotes’ plan will come to fruition.

The next step for the hockey team is to gather voter signatures on the development agreement, general plan amendment and zoning change for the land the team and its developers want to flip from a former landfill into an entertainment district on Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. The city council separately and unanimously approved those items on Tuesday.

Gutierrez said each of those items will require 2,100 signatures — so 6,300 in total. The team hopes to collect those in the next 10 days so Tempe can validate signatures and move forward by the end of 2022.

As for starting the campaign to get a vote of approval from Tempe citizens next May: “We actually feel it’s already started,” Gutierrez said.

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