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City of Tempe votes to continue talks with Coyotes to build new arena

The vote was 5-2 in favor of moving forward.

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2021 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images

The City of Tempe Special Meeting was initially set to begin at 2:00 pm Arizona time. Unfortunately, technical issues did cause a minor delay and were present throughout, and the meeting didn’t wrap up until after 10:00 pm. Still, it ended positively with a 5-2 vote to continue discussions with the Arizona Coyotes.

PHNX’s Chierstin Susel was on the scene and had some of the necessary details early on. She first reported that the NHL would approve a 30-year non-relocation agreement, the league would guarantee an NHL Draft and All-Star game for the city, and that Alex Meruelo would give $40 million cash to help clean up the site.

The Arizona Coyotes went first, making their pitch for the new arena. First with a short video showing the initial mock-up for the project, a fantastic video that shows what could be done with the area if the city elected to move forward.

The Coyotes organization had multiple speakers for the event, including Coyotes’Coyotes’ President & CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez, attorney Nick Wood, Shane Doan, and a representative of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And in a rare sight, active Coyotes players were in attendance, and forwards Nick Schmaltz and Christian Fischer joined Clayton Keller to speak to the council.

Representatives from the Coyotes discussed the project’s specifics, the team’s commitment to the valley, and the benefits to the City of Tempe. It is a plan that they say would make a landfill into a landmark. They made sure to hammer home Alex Muerlo’s commitment to the community, the stability of the organization, and the low impact on taxpayers.

Representatives from Sky Harbor were up next. Along with requesting that the city ensures that the Coyotes’ development plans keep to their agreements, they made sure to specify that they were not against the Coyotes and not against the arena, they were against the buildings.

Representatives argued that the FAA is against the plan and residential buildings in high noise areas. They said that if the proposal were to go through, it would add another full percent to the number of people living in high noise areas.

The Coyotes were given a chance to respond to the issues put forth by Sky Harbor, and they offered a great response. They highlighted FAA rules stipulating that cities can approve residential buildings in high noise areas, with recommendations to employ noise mitigation techniques and resident notices that the Coyotes agreed to. They also highlighted residential development in the high noise areas of Phoenix.

Perhaps most importantly, the Coyotes noted that in legal communications between Sky Harbor Airport and the City of Tempe, Sky Harbor was willing to drop the lawsuit if the IGA between the City of Phoenix and the City of Phoenix was also dropped.

Attorney Nick Wood argued that the real issue is that Sky Harbor is first and foremost interested in extending its runway. This was suggested in a January opinion article on AZCentral from Gregory E. Torrez, the former head of 501(c)4 called Support Sky Harbor Coalition. Wood argued that the noise concerns couldn’t be concerns if the airport is so willing to drop them.

The next stage of the meeting was the opportunity for public comment. Over 90 people had signed up to express their opinions before the council, including Hugh Hallman, Tempe’s former Mayor of Tempe, Olympian Lindsey Fry, and Carly Accardo.

After five hours, public comment was finished, with Mayor Corey Woods making sure everyone present had an opportunity to speak. But once everyone had a chance to say their piece, it was announced there were 228 written comments to be read into the record.

Many people from various organizations elected to speak before the City Council and put forth several legitimate issues, others less so. There are real concerns about the affordability of houses that the Coyotes develop, the potential impact of increased traffic, and a desire to see that the Coyotes pay for quality labor. This meeting was just the first step, and the Coyotes’Coyotes’ representatives stated that they look forward to discussing issues with local community leaders.

But after hours of comments and further questions from council members, the moment we were all waiting for arrived. The final vote was five yeses and two nos, meaning that the City of Tempe was free to begin negotiations with the Arizona Coyotes to construct a new arena. There is still much to go, but an essential first step is over.