Tempe voters will decide the future of the Coyotes franchise in Arizona on Tuesday (2023)

It is no exaggeration to say that Tuesday is the biggest day in Arizona Coyotes franchise history. Admittedly, 27 years in the desert haven't been much to write home about — with more bankruptcies than playoff wins and almost as many postseason appearances (nine) as ownership changes (seven). The Coyotes are the NHL definition of "run too," backed by commissioner Gary Bettman's steadfast commitment to keeping hockey in America's fifth-largest city. Without that, we wouldn't have Auston Matthews.

And after Tuesday's vote, the Valley of the Sun may not have the Coyotes for long. Because the fate of the Arizona franchise rests in the hands of voters through a special election on Tuesday that will determine whether the team's plans for a long-desired new home in Tempe are upheld or destroyed.

If you haven't been following along, here's a quick refresher on what's going on:

What is being voted on?

Let the people decide. Last November, the Tempe City Council voted 7 to 0 for a special election vote on May 16 to allow citizens to determine the viability of a $2.1 billion Tempe entertainment district.

The Tempe Entertainment District will feature a grand new 16,000-seat arena, along with a 3,000-seat music venue, a 1,900-unit residential complex and upscale retail, restaurants and hotels.

The plan calls for development of 46 acres adjacent to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is currently a hazardous wasteland. Specifically, voters are asked to vote YES or NO on three questions:

Proposal 301: Amendment of the city's comprehensive plan for the use of the property.
Proposal 302: Permit for reuse of the building.
Proposition 303: Gives the Arizona Coyotes the right to develop the 100-acre site into a new arena, entertainment center, two boutique hotels and nearly 2,000 residential units.

How is this vote going?

The interesting thing about this special election is that there is a postal vote. And those postal ballots were due last week, May 9. If ballots are not sent on time, residents can hand in their submitted ballots before 08.00 local time. It is possible to vote in person, but only if the postal ballot is lost, destroyed, damaged or not received.

Since the ballots were to be cast on May 9, what do we know about turnout?

According to Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports, voters are showing up in record numbers in Tempe. Morgan quoted the Maricopa County recorder as sayingreported last weekthat of the 89,575 registered voters in Tempe, more than 30 percent had already cast a ballot on May 9.

Does record turnout indicate a possible outcome?

None. As with all things political in 2023, this has been a hot-button issue in Tempe, with fierce disagreement on both sides of the argument. However, the increased participation has made the Coyotes' side confident.

"I'm really encouraged by the high turnout," Tempe Wins Committee Chairman Nick Bastian told PHNX Sports. "I really feel that the high turnout is to our advantage. To me, that means people are really looking at it and paying attention to the facts of the deal and how it affects us all.

The Coyotes have tried to sway the vote in as many ways as possible, including having their hockey operations management and executives run a grassroots-style campaign by literally going door-to-door for the past few weeks and months asking for a 'yes' vote." to ask. to vote. Yes, seriously, Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has come knocking.

However, NHL sources indicated that there is a significant difference in the spending of political action committees affiliated with both sides. It is believed that the Coyotes side spent less than $250,000 to activate the vote and opted for a bootstrap campaign, while the opposition spent more than $2 million, backed by powerful unions that had no guarantee that they were the ones building the project .

What are the arguments for and against?

The slogan for the Coyotes site is simple: Landfill to Landmark. The "Tempe Wins" team says 6,900 permanent jobs will be created as a result of the Tempe Entertainment District, along with $215 billion in tax relief over 30 years. The Coyotes say all funding will be private, with no risk to taxpayers or the city.

"We want to maximize our opportunities in our city and obviously this piece of land where the Coyotes plan to put this entertainment center is the best possible use for this property. It's a dump. It's a mess right now," said Joel Navarro , Tempe City Councilmantold KJZZ.

The opposition has balked at the idea that Tempe taxpayers won't open their wallets. First, the city will shoulder the $40 million cost of hazardous waste removal and cleanup, plus another $200 million in infrastructure costs to lay the literal foundation for the project. The usual complaints about increased traffic, the proximity of a new in-arena sportsbook to the Arizona State University campus and the impact on local residents and businesses have also been documented.

In addition, there is a clear 'anti-billionaire' backlash among citizens,marked by recent vandalismof a place where Bettman was to hold a press conference.

"They're maliciously misrepresenting the truth, shall we say," former Tempe City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby told KJZZ. "They say it is privately funded - they are referring to the arena itself. But inside and under the arena you need all that infrastructure, right? And then there will be taxes, hotel taxes, bed taxes, sales taxes that are going to pay for the infrastructure. City taxpayers, the public, will be responsible for $740 million. A big part of that is that once the buildings are built, they have property tax exemptions for up to 30 years, so that's $500 million in itself. The other $240 million is the infrastructure to build the district.”

If the referendum passes, will the Coyotes get their arena?

Not so fast. On the surface, if the answer is yes, the Coyotes have cleared a major hurdle and the Tempe Entertainment District is being green-lit by the city. However, that doesn't mean the bulldozing and retreating and kicking can hit the ground running just yet. First, it could take more than a full year to clean up the site and current landfill.

And perhaps more importantly, the Coyotes could still face legal challenges. On March 28, the city of Phoenix filed a lawsuit against the city of Tempe in Maricopa County Superior Court to stop the project. The city of Phoenix argued that the location violates a residential proximity agreement to Sky Harbor Airport. The Coyotes served one$2.3 billion counterclaimin response.

If the Coyotes can finally build their new arena in Tempe, Bettman has vowed that the franchise will stay in Arizona forever.

"Once the project is approved, the Coyotes will never go anywhere else," Bettman said at a City Council meeting. "They will be here forever."

What if the referendum does not go ahead?

Gulp. Ah yes, the multi-million dollar question that hockey fans want answered. A resounding "no" will likely kill the Coyotes' arena plan in Tempe, forcing them to start over. In reality, a "no" vote will likely kill the Coyotes' run in the Valley of the Sun as well. For nearly 18 months, Bettman and the Coyote ownership led by Alex Meruelo have been focused on a permanent solution since they were unceremoniously kicked out of their arena in nearby Glendale.

Even if the vote passes, it will be at least three more years before the Coyotes can drop the puck in Tempe. It would then be acceptable to continue playing at the 4,500-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State campus, knowing that a royal and truly new home is being built.

But what if a new permanent home in Arizona isn't on the horizon and the Coyotes have to go back to the drawing board? The NHL and its board, having exhausted all possible efforts, will likely have no choice but to raise the stakes and relocate the franchise. There's a reason the NHL has continued to hold meetings with potential owners in Houston, Salt Lake City, Kansas City and elsewhere — all of which would be good locations for a Central Division franchise. Because other owners are tired of the Coyotes having relatively little revenue compared to other generating clubs and players not happy to play in an NCAA arena. Really, it seems more a matter of "when" and "where," not "if" the Coyotes would move if the project was killed. There's no doubt Bettman and the NHL have a game plan in place behind the scenes, even if they're cautiously optimistic, hoping for the best for a franchise they've supported at every turn — some would say against all logic. Is it possible the Coyotes will play somewhere else next season? It seems far fetched. But if the vote really is 'no', it cannot be completely ruled out. On a factual basis, there is still time to get it done. Bettman first announced on May 31, 2011 that the Atlanta Thrashers had been sold to Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment and that the team would be moving for the following season. Of course, Winnipeg was originally supposed to host the Coyotes.

When will we know the results?

Voters can cast their votes until local time Tuesday. The result could already be known at 8 p.m. Arizona time, or ONE.


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