Tempe residents face vote on proposed Coyotes entertainment district

Tempe residents will vote in a special election on May 16 whether to approve a proposed entertainment district and arena for the Arizona Coyotes.

The Tempe City Council earlier this year voted 7-0 to send Propositions 301, 302 and 303 to voters. These propositions would approve the allocation of city-owned land west of Tempe Town Lake for the creation of the Arizona Coyotes Entertainment District, which would include 2,000 apartments and a hockey arena that can seat 16,000.

If passed, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and his development company Bluebird Development LLC would invest $2.1 billion in the project through private funds. Tempe residents are not expected to pay for the development through tax increases.

Tempe Wins, the political action committee supporting the propositions and largely funded by Meruelo, says the district would add nearly 7,000 jobs, $519 million in “financial benefits,” and $215 million in new tax revenue for Tempe residents.

Opposing the development is Tempe 1st, another political action committee which claims that the Coyotes would receive nearly $500 million in tax breaks. Residents say they are worried that the city would waste the valuable city land on a “risky deal.”

Opponents of the propositions claim that the project would not be environmentally friendly and would interfere with water conservation. Tempe 1st has also been vocally critical of Meruelo.

Earlier this month, Tempe Wins sent Tempe 1st a cease-and-desist letter for having “absolutely no justification or evidence” to support some of their claims about Meruelo. In return, Tempe 1st accused Tempe Wins of trying to intimidate voters.

The Coyotes project previously faced opposition from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, expressing concerns that any complex built close to the airport would interfere with air traffic. In December of last year, however, Sky Harbor officials removed their opposition after the Coyotes agreed to defend the airport in court against any excessive noise lawsuits.

At a news conference last week, opponents of the propositions gathered to express their concern about the propositions, saying it would distract from important local issues. Meanwhile, Tempe Wins has managed to raise $224,000 in support of the propositions and has also promoted the project’s proposal to contribute $2 million to the Tempe Coalition for Affordable Housing.

Voter registration for Tempe residents ends on April 17. Ballots will be mailed out April 19. Regardless of the outcome in May, the Arizona Board of Regents recently agreed to allow the Coyotes to continue to play in Mullet Arena on Arizona State University campus until 2025.

Craig Ruiz

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