Tempe City Council agrees to move ahead with proposed entertainment district; now up to voters

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — In its final meeting on Tuesday evening, the Tempe City Council unanimously approved to move ahead with the proposed Coyotes entertainment district and arena. The next step would be for Coyotes officials to collect signatures to get it on the ballot for voters. After enough signatures are gathered, residents can vote whether they’re for or against the project on May 16.

The Coyotes released a statement shortly after the council’s decision.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was among the many who spoke about their support for the proposal. Bettman made the trip to Tempe to show that the Coyotes have his support. He says the arena and entertainment district will bring people together and shine a light on Tempe. “If you go back over the last 25 years, our commitment to Arizona has never wavered, and hopefully, we can get to a place where a new arena here will be a reality,” he said. “We know this is a great market, and they are great fans, and this is a place we want to be.”

Only five out of seven ‘yes’ votes were needed from city council members to push the vote to Tempe residents, who will be the ones to decide if they want the $2.1 billion entertainment district. The vote passed 7-0. The 46-acre project would sit at the corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. It would feature 16,000 residential units, a hotel and restaurants. Among those in support of the idea were the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Gila River Resorts and Tempe Tourism.

The council held its first meeting last Tuesday for all sides to present their thoughts and ideas for the project. Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said the district would bring 7,000 jobs to the area, but those against the proposal say it will create parking, traffic and housing issues in Tempe.

However, Bettman says no public taxpayer dollars are at risk. He says the project will be built with private funds. “We’re very respectful of the process. And we believe when people understand the merits of this project it will get widespread support,” he explained. Gutierrez echoed Bettman’s comments on funding. “This is an opportunity to turn a landfill into a landmark. This is privately financed. There are no special favors that we’re asking for. And we’re the right people to pull off this project given our track record, our financial resources and given the commitment of this owner,” Gutierrez said.

Tempe’s city traffic engineer said the city would add new technology to the streets to alleviate traffic and offer alternative transportation options, including shuttles, buses, bikes and scooters. Still, opponents are concerned that the project’s location will present problems for flight patterns at Sky Harbor Airport. Officials say residential units will be placed directly under their flight path and say Tempe and Phoenix previously agreed there’d be no housing in that area because of noise concerns.