Coyote fans must now await decision from Tempe voters |
A development that lacked clarity over the past six months gained some traction last week.
Tempe City Council voted unanimously to set May 16 as the referendum date for a proposed $2.1 billion development that includes a hockey arena, hotels, apartments, retail stores , restaurants and a sports betting site.
For the Arizona Coyotes and the city, this is just the first step in a protracted process since negotiations advanced with the City Council in June – but any sign of progress is a breath of fresh air for an organization that desperately needs future stability.
“We have always remained incredibly confident that this is the right project, the right deal, and we are the right team to make it happen,” said Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez. “We would like to stay in Tempe.
“As you all know, we’re here at Mullet Arena. As someone recently told me, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have at an NHL game, it was electric – and it wasn’t. “This is just a preview. We’ve always seen (Mullett Arena) as a temporary fix. We’ve presented what we believe to be the most transformative and iconic project for this community.”
The Tempe City Council will hold two public hearings in the coming weeks on the new proposal. On November 22, the Coyotes and Gutierrez will present their project proposal, a week before the city council votes to send it to a public referendum on the already reserved date of May 16.
For Tempe City Council, he appreciates public feedback and wants the city’s future to be in the hands of the community.
“I’ve been on council for 10 1/2 years, and I’ve never had a project that has generated so much public interest with so much public attention,” said Tempe Mayor Corey Woods.
“We have 46 acres of contiguous land, and that’s probably the last huge piece of land in Tempe that the project could happen on. And as I talked about, before, all the other sports arena projects one way or another have been presented to the voters or in an element of it.
“So our prospect was better to have the opportunity to have that on the ballot in March or May, where we have our council elections. Reserving this date for the May 16 election is very consistent with what we do for all of our municipal elections and gives our residents a real chance to have their say.
There is also the potential problem of litigation from Sky Harbor International Airport, the City of Phoenix, the Goldwater Institute, or local citizens’ groups.
According to a report by PHNX Sports, the airport has threatened to continue construction of multi-residence units which it says violate a 1994 intergovernmental agreement between the cities, but that agreement appears to make an exception for soundproof apartments such as those that the Coyotes plan to build; a point that Coyotes attorney Nick Wood brought home at the board meeting in June.
“We’ve had many conversations with the airport, as you all know, we’ve appeared with the Phoenix Airport Advisory Board several times,” Gutierrez said. “We had again been completely transparent about what our project looked like.
“And the fact that we wanted to come up with a proposal from day one that would satisfy not only the intergovernmental agreement but also the Federal Aviation Association, which is really focused on the safety and soundness of the airport. What we came up with , which we will present, very publicly now, we believe will satisfy not only everything the FAA wants, but what is really allowed by the IGA.
With the vote in the hands of the people, it is difficult to predict the outcome if the project goes to a referendum. If the project is refused, the Coyotes will undoubtedly be in a difficult situation regarding their future home.
A recent development of a sports complex in Berlin, Maryland was recently put to a referendum to be built, but the majority of voters did not show their support. Even with the rejection, the Maryland project is still looking for a funding alternative.
In the general election, 52.37% of voters were against Question A, which asked whether Worcester County Commissioners could condone the costs associated with a sports complex. There were 9,424 (52.37%) votes against the question and 8,572 (47.63%) in favor of the question.
“The referendum was not about a sports complex,” Joe Mitrecic, commissioner and chairman of the Worcester County Board of Commissioners, told the MDCoastDispatch. “The referendum was about issuing bonds. As far as I am concerned, the sports complex project continues. We just have to find another way to fund it.
The Coyotes’ referendum is about the sports complex, but Maryland’s close vote is encouraging for the organization.
“We saw a glimpse of (hockey in Tempe),” Gutierrez said. “Now imagine if you had the opportunity to create this transformative sports and entertainment district on 46 acres. It would be for us the crown jewel of what Tempe imagined to be here, in the heart of the valley.