Grassroots group Tempe First was host to a public discussion recently meant to increase opposition to a massive development project in Tempe. The Tempe Entertainment District would include a new arena and practice facility for the Arizona Coyotes, a music venue, multi-family housing units, hotels, restaurants and retail shops.
Two speakers spoke out against the project, but some residents also voiced their support. Voters in Tempe will decide the fate of the $2 billion-plus project on May 16.
Coyotes arena and practice facility part of first phase of development
Arizona sports betting has been live in Arizona since September 2021. There are currently no physical sportsbooks in Tempe. The sportsbook partner of the Coyotes is SaharaBets. It may be looking to place a physical sportsbook in the new arena, as there are currently retail sportsbooks in all the major sports facilities in the Phoenix area.
The Tempe Entertainment District will span 46 acres. It will be south of the Salt River and east of the Arizona State University campus, just west of Mill Avenue on Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. The project’s highlight is the Coyotes arena and practice facility. The arena will hold 16,000 seats.
Erecting the arena and practice facility will be the first stage of development. Once that is complete, attention will shift to renovating and developing the area around the new arena. There are plans to build multiple hotels to house tourists, but residents aren’t forgotten. Plans also call for building multi-family housing.
There are also plans to build a concert venue and provide space for restaurants and retail outlets, along with a grocery store.
The development team will be Bluebird Development. The massive 4-million-square-foot project will be mostly funded with private dollars. Bluebird will pay the city of Tempe $50.2 million for the land.
Two speak out against the project
There were two people who spoke out against the Tempe Entertainment District.
The first was Gayle Shanks, a Tempe First member who methodically pointed out potential faults in the project’s financial plan. Shanks said there are concerns over the costs exceeding the rewards.
“I think the financials do not make sense.”
The second speaker against the project was Lauren Kuby, a former Tempe City councilmember. Kuby spoke about traffic congestion issues that could arise and tax breaks developers could be aiming to secure.
“We are just creating bottlenecks and traffic congestion, and neighborhoods in the southeast neighborhoods are really going to suffer from that.”
She also said she was also concerned about a sportsbook at the new arena.
Supporters offer their 2 cents during Q&A
Once the presentations were done, a question-and-answer session began.
The first person to speak was Tempe resident Onnie Shekerjian. She said she was excited about the tax revenue that will come from the venture.
“It is a great project. It will bring tax revenue into the city of Tempe to support projects like affordable housing.”
Doug Royse said he has lived in Tempe his entire life. His support for the project is due to the land it will sit on being currently vacant.
“It’s taking over a worthless piece of property that is not generating any money.”
Voters will have the final say. They will vote on the project in a special election on May 16.