Design & Development

Tempe City Council approves Coyotes arena project

The Arizona Coyotes have hailed Tempe City Council’s approval of its $2.1bn (£1.75bn/€2.02bn) arena and entertainment district, with president and CEO, Xavier A. Gutierrez, stating the venture will turn a “landfill into a landmark”.

Residents are now likely to get the opportunity to vote on the Tempe Entertainment District, following the Council’s 7-0 vote yesterday (Tuesday) to approve key aspects of the plan put forward by the NHL ice hockey franchise.

The Coyotes have pledged to collect the needed petition signatures to refer the project to the ballot as soon as May 16. On November 10, the Council voted to schedule and prepare for a public vote on the proposed arena and entertainment district, pending yesterday’s decision on approval of the project.

If voters approve, the 46-acre project could be built with a planned 16,000-seat Coyotes hockey arena, practice facility, hotels, multi-family residential, retail and more. The developer will use largely private funding to build the four million-square-foot development and, according to the agreement approved yesterday, will pay Tempe $50.3m for the land. This includes $40m in non-refundable cash up-front before environmental remediation of the site.

The Council’s unanimous vote came after two public hearings, as well as months of negotiations, city due diligence and developer-hosted public meetings. Three aspects of the Tempe Entertainment District proposal from Bluebird Development, the affiliate for the Meruelo Group and the Coyotes, were approved: a Zoning Map Amendment and a Planned Area Development (PAD) Overlay; a General Plan Amendment; and the Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA).

The Council’s action earlier this month to schedule a special election on May 16 does not mean the Council has placed this issue on the ballot. State law requires governing bodies to provide a Call of Election at least 180 days in advance of any election.

With the Council now approving the items, their inclusion on the May 2023 ballot would require Bluebird, or any other interested party, to timely get the required number of qualifying petition signatures. Tempe voters would then decide whether the project should move forward. According to the DDA approved yesterday, if Bluebird does not successfully refer the items to a ballot, the City Council may within 90 days thereafter rescind the DDA.

Gutierrez said: “This was a great night. The Arizona Coyotes and the Meruelo family are deeply thankful to the Tempe City Council for their unanimous support and cannot wait to move forward on this transformational development.

“The Tempe Entertainment District will be a huge win for this community, and we have no doubt that Tempe voters will agree. Our project will turn a landfill into a landmark – and one that not only provides a wonderful home for the Coyotes but also serves as a vibrant town square for Tempe, generating thousands of sustainable jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the City.

“We look forward to sharing more information over the coming months. But, for now, we are grateful and excited.”

Mayor Corey Woods added: “The vote this evening will give the residents in this city an unprecedented opportunity to weigh in and let us know what their feelings are about this.

“The reality is after looking at this for a long time…my perspective really is what has been put together here is the best entertainment/arena deal that has been put together in the history of this state.”

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 development in Tempe. The arena has been designed by Manica Architecture.

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.

Efforts to secure a new home for the Coyotes has been one of the key items on the agenda for the NHL, proven by the presence of commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly at yesterday’s Council meeting.

Bettman said the team could potentially host an All-Star Game and/or NHL Draft in the future. “We’ve seen the vision as to what the future can look like,” Bettman added, according to the Coyotes’ official website.

“We’ve seen a passion and a commitment in terms of energy, effort, assets, and dollars. Everything is being put in place to make this a success.”