Residents are likely to get the opportunity to vote on the Tempe Entertainment District, now that the Tempe City Council has approved key aspects of the plan.
The Arizona Coyotes have pledged to collect the needed petition signatures to refer the project to the ballot as soon as May 16, 2023. If voters approve, the 46-acre project could be built with a planned Coyotes hockey arena, hotels, multi-family residential, retail and more. The developer will use largely private funding to build the 4 million-square-foot development and, according to the agreement approved tonight, will pay Tempe $50.3 million for the land. This includes $40 million in non-refundable cash up-front before environmental remediation of the land.
Mayor Corey Woods praised the due diligence of city staff’s and outside experts’ proposal evaluations and the openness and transparency of the process.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The Council’s unanimous vote came tonight after two public hearings, including the first on Nov. 22, as well as months of negotiations, city due diligence and developer-hosted public meetings. Three aspects of the primarily privately funded Tempe Entertainment District proposal from Bluebird Development, the affiliate for the Meruelo Group and the Arizona 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 DDA includes the specific elements of the proposed development, which are all commitments between the city and the developer, including the environmental remediation of the land and the developer’s purchase of the city land.
The City Council unanimously agreed at its Nov. 10 Special Meeting to reserve a spot on the county’s May 2023 Special Election ballot regarding the proposal. The Council’s action indicated the possibility of holding a Special Election on May 16, 2023; however, it 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. Bluebird Development pledged at the Nov. 10 meeting to collect enough valid signatures to place the measures on the May 2023 ballot. City Councilmembers and Arizona Coyotes representatives made comments during the meeting; the video for the meeting is here.
Now that the Council approved these 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 tonight, if Bluebird does not successfully refer the items to a ballot, the City Council may within 90 days thereafter rescind the DDA.