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Tempe votes to negotiate with Arizona Coyotes on new arena project

The Tempe City Council has voted to negotiate with the Arizona Coyotes on a proposed development of nearly $2 billion that would include a new arena for the franchise.

The council voted 5-2 in favor after a seven-hour meeting Thursday night that included comments from more than 100 citizens and the reading of more than 220 written statements.

“I don’t know whether there is a successful project that will result from the proposal or if the council will ultimately approve it,” said former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. “But that’s a question for a different day. Today is merely to open the door and let the sun shine in on this process.”

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The Coyotes gave a lengthy presentation for a 46-acre tract of land west of downtown Tempe that would include an arena, hotels, retail, offices and housing. Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan and three current players also spoke during the meeting.

Team president Xavier Guttierrez explained why the project would be beneficial to the area.

“It reinforces Tempe’s role as a vibrant center for the entire state,” he said. “A location where folks from across the Valley can live, work and play. This project we see as a transformative development, an opportunity to turn a landfill in to a landmark.”

But not all residents were happy with the proposal. “Because it’s gonna mean a lot of noise,” said Doris Provine. “I row on Tempe Town Lake. I know how noisy it is when planes go overhead. I’m worried about traffic. I can barely get around on Rio Salado now, and it’s going to get worse.”

Officials from Sky Harbor Airport expressed concerns about the housing component because the land is 9,800 feet from the end of one of its runways. They did not oppose the arena proposal, but said sound insulation would not be efficient enough with the more 1,000 residential units being directly under the flightpath.

And the Federal Aviation Administration yet again raised concerns about the plan in a letter ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

The letter, which was dated Wednesday, was addressed to Tempe’s city manager. In it, the FAA’s regional manager wrote that the agency does not support residential developments within areas experiencing aviation-related noise levels of 65 decibels or greater. The proposed district would be located within that 65-decibel contour.

The letter added that the FAA conducted a neighborhood environmental survey and found that people were highly annoyed at noise exposure levels of 65 decibels.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said via video call that he endorsed the plan without reservation, but said a 30-year no-relocation agreement would be required.

The Coyotes had been on an annual lease at Gila River Arena since the city of Glendale voted to terminate a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement in 2015. Glendale decided to not renew the lease after the 2021-22 season and the Coyotes found a temporary home at Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat arena, starting next season.

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.