May 17, 2023 - Sports

Tempe voters reject plan for new Arizona Coyotes arena

An artist's rendering of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District. Courtesy of Tempe Wins/Manica Architecture

The Arizona Coyotes won't be making Tempe their permanent home after voters scuttled plans for a proposed entertainment district near the lake whose centerpiece would have been a new hockey arena.

Driving the news: Propositions 301, 302 and 303 all trailed by double digits Tuesday night after the first round of results, expected to be the majority of the ballots cast, were released.

  • With more than 29,000 early ballots counted, Propositions 301 and 302 were losing 56-44, while Proposition 303 trailed 57-43.
  • About 4,000 ballots are left to count, per Maricopa County election officials.
  • All three measures, which would have approved zoning changes and the Coyotes' development agreement with the city, needed to pass for the Tempe Entertainment District to become a reality.

What they're saying: Tempe 1st, the opposition campaign, called the vote "a victory by Tempe for Tempe."

  • "This win goes to show that Tempe residents love our community, we know what's best for it and we must be part of every conversation when it comes to our land, our tax dollars, and what we value as our city grows," the campaign said.
  • Tempe 1st said the outcome is an opportunity "to begin having inclusive, wide ranging, deliberate and multiple public conversations about what we want and need as a community going forward."

The other side: In a statement issued by Tempe Wins, the pro-district campaign, Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said the team was disappointed.

  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was "terribly disappointed" by the results.

Between the lines: Supporters, including Tempe's current and former mayors, touted the district as a way to transform a "landfill into a landmark," turning a vacant lot that includes a former dump into a bustling commercial, residential and entertainment hub.

  • The district would have been privately funded, but the city would have provided a massive property tax break.
  • Critics objected to the property tax break as "handouts for billionaires."
  • The campaigns touted rival economic studies, one claiming the city would get $167 million in tax revenue over the course of the 30-year deal and another saying Tempe would see a net loss of $7 million.

Meanwhile, Phoenix sued to stop the proposal, arguing in court it violated a 1994 agreement to restrict residential development in a high-noise area along the flight path for Sky Harbor International Airport.

The lot near Tempe Town Lake that was the proposed site of the Tempe Entertainment District that would've featured a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes. Photo courtesy of City of Tempe.
The lot near Tempe Town Lake that was the proposed site of the Tempe Entertainment District that would've featured a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes. Photo: Courtesy of City of Tempe.

Zoom in: Tempe Wins, funded by Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo's development company, spent more than $700,000 on the campaign, compared to about $35,000 for Tempe 1st, The Arizona Republic reported.

What's next: Gutierrez said the franchise's next move "will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks," while Bettman said the NHL "is going to review with the Coyotes what the options might be for going forward."

Catch up quick: Glendale ended negotiations with the Coyotes in 2021 after the two sides were unable to agree on a long-term lease to keep the team at Gila River Arena.

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