Design & Development

Public vote scheduled for Coyotes arena project

Featured image credit: Manica Architecture

The plans of NHL ice hockey franchise the Arizona Coyotes to develop a new arena in the city of Tempe are poised to go to a public vote.

Tempe City Council yesterday (Thursday) voted to schedule and prepare for a May 16 public vote on the proposed arena and entertainment district. The Council noted that this action does not indicate its approval of the overall project, which is set to be considered later this month.
Yesterday’s vote was held as state law requires governing bodies to provide a Call of Election at least 180 days in advance of any election. The Council also will hold November 22 and November 29 public hearings, including a vote on the latter date, on three aspects of the Tempe Entertainment District proposal from Bluebird Development, the affiliate for the Meruelo Group and the Coyotes.

Those items include a development and disposition agreement (DDA), a General Plan amendment and a zoning amendment. A DDA includes the specific elements of a proposed development, including all commitments between the city and the developer.
Should the Council approve these items on November 29, various entities may take out petitions to refer the ordinances to the May 2023 ballot. 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 November 29, the development would not move forward and there would not be a need for a May election regarding these items.

Tempe City Council in June voted to proceed with negotiations on the development of the wide-ranging entertainment district that would be anchored by the new arena for the Coyotes.

In September 2021, the Coyotes revealed plans for a $1.7bn (£1.45bn/€1.65bn) development in Tempe, with the project to include an arena that can seat around 16,000 fans. The arena has been designed by Manica Architecture. The complex would also include a 1,500-seat theatre space, offices, an apartment building, a hotel and shops.

The Arizona Sports website notes that the project is currently facing strong opposition from the City of Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport. The proposed site sits underneath a flight path, and the entertainment district’s plans include more than 1,600 multi-family homes that the Federal Aviation Administration has deemed “incompatible” due to airplane noise.

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. Meanwhile, the site also faces another challenge in that its sits on a former landfill that must be cleaned up.

As the Coyotes seek to progress the plans, Mullett Arena last month staged its first-ever NHL game as the team fell to a 3-2 defeat against the Winnipeg Jets, with a crowd of around 4,600 in attendance.

The Coyotes are playing at the new 5,000-seat facility from the 2022-23 to 2024-25 seasons – and potentially the 2025-26 campaign – as the team continues efforts to secure a permanent home.