Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The City of Tempe has still not announced a decision on the Coyotes’ response to their RFP. First they announced they would do so at the end of December, 2021. Then it moved to the end of January, 2022. Now, it’s crickets. To refresh your memory, in July, 2021, the city issued an RFP for “a mixed-use project incorporating a professional sports franchise and entertainment district for two parcels of city-owned land totaling 46 acres at the northeast corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway.” The Coyotes, as Bluebird Development, were the only entity to submit a bid on September 3, 2021.

The Coyotes want to build a $1.7 billion development with a 16,000-seat arena, hotels, apartments and shops on 46 acres near Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway that the team said would be financed by private investors. The team wants to use a portion of city sales tax revenues generated on the site to help pay for $20 million in infrastructure and other costs to get the site shovel ready.

One obstacle to the proposal has been Sky Harbor Airport. It is concerned, as it should be, that this development will be 460 feet away from the end of one of the runways. It is also concerned about the height of the proposed apartment complexes and the arena itself as well as the intrusive lighting that has the potential to disrupt pilots.

Tempe is having an election to select 3 councilmembers who would be sworn in July of 2022. The city’s Primary Election is March 8, 2022. Usually, but not always, the Primary Election produces the winners as 50% plus 1 vote is all that is needed to have won the Primary. If the winners are not selected in the Primary, there will be a General Election on May 17, 2022.

At a January, 2022, Tempe candidate forum all candidates were asked to respond to the Coyotes’ RFP. They were asked whether they supported the plan and what it would take to get their support for the deal. This is the link to that forum: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/tempe-election-council-candidates-sound-off-on-coyotes-arena-deal-2020-election-at-republic-forum/ar-AASLpx2 . Apparently all are very good tap dancers for they certainly danced around this issue. It really is pretty simple. Either they support giving $20 million taxpayer dollars to a sports owner or they do not. That is acknowledged as part of the deal. Not much in-depth research is required on this deal point. Here are their responses:

John Skelton: A former Arizona Cardinals quarterback who operates an in-home senior care center in the East Valley, Skelton said the NHL team’s proposal appeared to be a “good deal” for Tempe, especially as that land isn’t currently generating revenue for the city. A development of that size could cause traffic issues and he said if elected he would want to look at what the city can do to alleviate congestion around the project.

Casey Clowes: An attorney and community advocate whose work focuses on environmental and social equity causes, Clowes said she grew up playing hockey and attending Coyotes games. If elected, she would look at the benefits and drawbacks of developing an arena as opposed to another type of development on that land. One deal point she would drill down on would be any financial incentives like property tax subsidies offered to the team, which she doesn’t support. She would also encourage the team to prioritize hiring Tempe residents, hiring companies that offer fair wages and hiring companies that use apprenticeship programs during construction.

Gina Kash: The project could help draw money for local businesses and she would support the arena, said Kash, a former top-level Republican caucus staffer at the Arizona House of Representatives where she started in 1998. She wants to see local businesses prioritized in the project and would want to have discussions with residents on whether tax dollars should be used in the deal.

Harper Lines: A member of the Tempe Arts and Culture Commission who oversees community engagement at the University of Phoenix, Lines said the city needs to weigh potential job opportunities and economic development benefits of an arena against transportation issues it could cause. The city also needs to consider the team’s rocky relationship with Glendale and reports of late rent and other payments to Glendale so that the city isn’t saddled with debt if it enters into a deal with the Coyotes.

Jennifer Adams: The only sitting council member candidate running who was first elected in 2018 said she is currently involved in negotiations and couldn’t comment on the question but that she “evaluates everything very carefully” to see if a deal is a right fit for Tempe.

Arlene Chin: Appointed by the council to fill a vacancy on the dais from May 2019 to July 2020, Chin, who works for the ASU Foundation and is active in city commissions and nonprofit boards, said overall she is supportive of bringing more investment to Tempe and of projects that could bring jobs and business development but it has to pencil out financially for the city. She raised concerns about the infrastructure needs to support such a large project, potential burdens it could put on city systems and the cost of moving a city operations yard that is on the site that would have to be moved before construction.

Berdetta Hodge: Hodge, who has long been involved in the local community, said she would support the project if it’s the right fit for Tempe. She is optimistic that a project of this magnitude could bring more jobs and commerce to the city but would want to make sure that traffic issues and neighborhood impacts are addressed. She wants the team to prioritize working with union contractors that provide prevailing wages, create partnerships with community groups and schools to provide opportunities for residents and support parks and neighborhoods. She wouldn’t support city funding for the project and said Tempe residents shouldn’t be taxed for it.

Current speculation is that there are 2 councilmembers who support the deal; 2 councilmembers who oppose the deal; and the rest are undecided.

Here’s my take. I have no insider knowledge and what I offer is pure speculation. While everyone waits for the RFP outcome, political leaders have realized that making a decision prior to the Primary Election on March 8th is not in their best interests. If those who are elected appear to support the deal, they will be comfortable in announcing the RFP’s acceptance. Obviously, the reverse is true as well. Depending on the results of the Primary Election, don’t expect Tempe to do anything until the candidate winners are announced.

You can be sure the Coyotes are putting substantial sums into the campaigns of those who support their RFP. I checked all candidates’ campaign filings of January 31st and there is nothing outstanding with regard to their campaign contributions. That is to be expected. Their next campaign filings will reveal who received money from whom.

However, money can only do so much. There are well organized groups of citizens who oppose this deal as well as the Council’s possible decision to give $20 million in taxpayer dollars to support a sports franchise. This has garnered the attention of the Coyotes who have called upon fans to start an email campaign and petitions in support of the Coyotes. The battle lines have been drawn. Let’s see who becomes the victor.

On a totally separate note and kind of related is the Coyotes/ASU deal that allows the Coyotes to play in a college facility for at least the next 3 years. I suspect all the owners within the NHL are spittin’ mad. The Coyotes’ owner is already financially subsidized in a league revenue sharing scheme. With even less revenue generated in this small facility, the other owners will take it on the chin by having to share even more revenue with the Coyotes. They cannot be happy at this prospect.

Bettman is also allowing the Coyotes to play in a 5,000-seat facility. The actual attendance will be even less than that as seats will be consumed for press and production uses. Yet when others sought temporary, smaller facility usage, historically they have been denied by Bettman. Why the discrimination in this case? I suspect Bettman will do anything to save face when he made his absolute declaration that hockey would stay in Arizona as well as his commitment to the southwest media market.

I wonder if Bettman and Daley have make the trek to Tempe to chat up councilmembers in an effort to shore up support for a positive decision on the Coyotes’ proposal?

My final observation is that I am pleased the City of Glendale made the decision to sever ties with the Coyotes. Their history of ownership has been filled with unpleasant drama and financial issues. Hey, Tempe Councilmembers, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Consider your RFP just the first chapter in your possible, drama-filled relationship with the team. It won’t be your last.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      


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