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Tempe voters to decide fate of new Coyotes arena

The Tempe City Council is tentatively planning to ask voters to approve a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, in a decision that likely will determine the long-term fate of the NHL in the state.

The Coyotes are pitching a $2-billion development on 46 acres of Tempe-owned land west of Tempe Town Lake currently used as a municipal operations yard. It’s raised plenty of opposition across the board, both within the city–where some worry the city would be stuck with a huge bill should the team leave, even though the project is being pitched as being privately funded, with the city only picking up infrastructure costs–and outside, where Phoenix officials are arguing against the project ostensibly because of a potential impact on Sky Harbor Airport operations. Opponents have also questions whether Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo have the financial wherewithal to back a project of this scope.

The City Council vote was preliminary. The matter may not end up being on the May 16 ballot: the decision by the Council to move forward is just that, and the Council will be asked at a Nov. 19 meeting both to approve the project and then to present the issue to voters.

The plan calls for the arena to seat 16,000 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.

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