A proposed Arizona Coyotes arena is the core of a $1.7-billion development in Tempe, as the team envisions a privately financed retail/entertainment/housing complex on a city-owned site on the Salt River.
It’s rare you find a major-league-level venue proposal these days that doesn’t include plenty of associated private development, and that’s certainly true with the proposal submitted to the city by the Coyotes ownership. Investors would finance the proposed Arizona Coyotes arena as well as the surrounding mixed-use development, with city participation on the site remediation. The location along the Salt River has been used as a trash dump in the past, with all sides knowing that remediation would be the start of any redevelopment. That would be accomplished with the city issuing $200 million in Community Facilities District bonds, backed by increased sales taxes generated by the project. A surcharge on retail purchased could also be part of the city funding of remediation and site prep.
Otherwise, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and other investors would pick up the costs of the project. The plan calls for the proposed Arizona Coyotes arena to seat 16,000 — a smaller venue than the team’s current home, Gila River Arena in Glendale as well as the approximately 18,000 capacity for Footprint Center — and feature a design with more fans closer to the action in the lower bowl. (This is very much in line with current sports-venues design trends.) A new team headquarters and training complex would be part of the mix, while owners see the facility as the year-round home for hockey in the Valley. The arena would be featured in the first phase of the development, which would also include a 1,500-seat theater, a 200-room hotel, office space, an apartment building and a small commercial district. A second phase would include 1,500 or more apartments, a larger 300-room hotel with meeting spaces, and additional retail and office space. The specific timeline for each of these projects is still in planning and development.
Visitors also could expect to see a shaded courtyard with gathering spaces, a new walkway along Tempe Town Lake, and maybe water in the dry riverbed one day. A plan led by Arizona State University called Rio Reimagined seeks to have the Salt River flow again, and the Coyotes hope their investment would encourage others to kick in funding for the river project, Gutierrez said.
Vertical construction would be paid for by investors, including Meruelo, whose business portfolio includes several construction companies, TV and radio stations, restaurants and a local bank in California and two hotels and casinos in Nevada.
As the Coyotes say they’re looking at a 2025 opening date, one major issue arises: where the team will pay in the meantime. Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps announced in August the city would not be renewing the Arizona Coyotes lease at Gila River Rena after months of talks about a long-term renewal. The city wanted to see the team stay, but with the interest in Tempe, the decision was made to not renew and instead focus on lower-key but potentially more lucrative events. The logical move for the Coyotes would be to make up with Glendale and close on a short-term lease for the team’s current home: it will take a few years to design and build a new Tempe arena, but it will also take a year or so for Glendale and arena management ASM Global to come up with a game plan to replace hockey with 20 concerts and events attracting 10,000 or more fans, the financial formula needed to make up for the loss of NHL hockey.
Speaking of the Coyotes: perhaps not so coincidentally after the unveiling of details about a proposed new arena, the team announced a rebranding that includes the return of the popular Kachina logo as the team’s primary logo as well as return of the white Kachina jersey for the Coyotes away uniform. The Coyotes will continue to wear their black Kachina jerseys for most home games during the 2021-22 NHL season except for eight games when the team will wear its red Coyotes head jerseys.
“We are extremely excited to launch our rebrand that is focused on our vision to become a long-term winning team in Arizona and our dedication to impact, inclusivity, and innovation,” said President & CEO Xavier Gutierrez in a press release. “As always, we listened to our incredibly loyal and passionate fans, and we were overwhelmed by their love for the Kachina brand and desire to bring the logo and jerseys back on a full-time basis. Embracing the Kachina was an easy decision for us, and we are very proud to have one of the best logos and uniforms in the entire NHL.
“Our rebrand will highlight that the Coyotes are a dynamic, energetic and a forward-looking organization and this campaign with demonstrate our commitment to be a leader in our community. The Valley and the entire state are a part of Our Pack.”
Renderings courtesy Arizona Coyotes.
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