TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council voted on Thursday night to move forward with discussions on the $2.1 billion Arizona Coyotes arena proposal.
In a 5-2 vote, the Council agreed to open further negotiations with the developers of the Tempe Entertainment District plans that were proposed to be built on land at Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive at the west end of Tempe Town Lake.
The Coyotes proposed the plan - a sports, entertainment and residential district - back in September 2021 after their lease at Gila River Arena in Glendale was not renewed.
Following the vote, the Arizona Coyotes issued the following statement.
"We are extremely pleased that the Tempe City Council has voted to proceed with negotiations on development of the Tempe Entertainment District. Having heard all the facts, they have recognized the incredible opportunity that this project presents – not only for the Coyotes but also for the City of Tempe. We look forward to taking the next steps to turn this exciting vision into a reality.”
What did the Tempe City Council say?
The City Council addressed concerns surrounding finances and the safety issues cited by all of the public input on Thursday.
"You [Coyotes] have done an excellent job resetting the tone and addressing the concerns we have all had," Vice Mayor Randy Keating, who voted yes, said. "This is not an indication that I will support or not support the project but I am willing to hear more."
Councilmember Lauren Kuby voted against moving forward on the current request for proposal (RFP) citing concerns around public funding to maintain the facilities and the affordable housing portion of the RFP.
The Coyotes committed a $2 million contribution for affordable housing programs in the proposal.
"The city will be responsible for the maintenance and operation of this infrastructure and that's important to note," Kuby said. "We know the affordable housing, homelessness and traffic are among the three concerns the city has. How does this proposal help us solve this problem?"
Councilmember Doreen Garlid, who also voted against it, said she wants to make sure the proposal is beneficial to all Tempe residents and currently it does not.
Details on the proposal
The plan is for a 16,000-seat arena along with the team’s new headquarters and a practice rink. In the following phases, the site would add hotels, retail, apartments, and a theater.
At the meeting Thursday, officials from the Coyotes said the development will bring 6,900 permanent jobs and over 9,000 to the state of Arizona. The team also said the proposal will generate close to $125 million in revenue.
Coyote legend Shane Doan spoke at the hearing stating that the project will bolster the area and its residents. Three other current players also gave their input.
"I read somewhere that Tempe Town Lake is the second most visited spot in the state only behind the Grand Canyon...," Doan said. "This arena and this development and the vision that our ownership has of this are going to enhance that again."
The team plans to fund the majority of the project themselves and said no taxpayer dollars will be put at risk.
Input from the public
Mesa resident Jonathan Taylor said the Coyotes had a positive impact on the life of many in the area and inspired a whole new generation of hockey fans.
"Shane Doan had a positive impact on my life and a lot of others," he said. "The impact the Coyotes continue to have on the community. Just look at hockey players from the Valley like Lindsay Fry and Auston Matthews and what they have done."
Taylor was among dozens of members of the public wearing Coyotes apparel and expressing similar sentiments on what the team means to the Valley.
Other proponents of the plan said that the ease of commuting to a new stadium in Tempe will allow them to be frequent visitors at games and other events.
Among people who expressed concerns were representatives of Phoenix Sky Harbor, the City of Phoenix, and residents and businesses in the area.
Officials from the airport cited concerns about building heights and the site's proximity to runways as the proposal falls under Sky Harbor's flight paths.
Sky Harbor issued the following statement after the Council's vote.
"As neighboring cities, Phoenix and Tempe have a longstanding tradition of working together for the benefit of the entire community. We understand Tempe’s desire to develop this land east of the Airport, and Phoenix Sky Harbor is not in opposition to the Tempe Entertainment District development as a whole. Our concern has been and remains with the proposed residential high rise which would violate the terms of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Phoenix and Tempe. If the residential building is not removed from the project, it jeopardizes the entire agreement. For nearly three decades this agreement has helped reduce the harmful effects of noise for Tempe residents. We are optimistic we can come to a mutually beneficial solution which will ensure compatible land use in the high-noise areas directly under Sky Harbor’s flight paths.”
Concerns from the City of Phoenix centered around the 1,000-unit residential high-rise housing on the site. In a letter on May 26, Phoenix warned the City of Tempe that the residential units would violate an almost 30-year-old agreement between the two cities.
Other concerns revolved around the increase in taxes from residents of the city, unwanted traffic, increase in rent prices, and safety.
Negotiations between the city and the developer of the project will begin in a long process toward hopefully striking a deal.
This will include conversations on finances and specifics about the building of the entertainment district and will welcome input from the public.
In the meantime, the team moves to Arizona State University’s new 5,000-seat multipurpose development beginning next season. Their lease runs through the 2023-24 NHL season.
PHOTOS: Renderings of the Arizona Coyotes proposed arena and entertainment district in Tempe
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