The Coyotes’ hopes for building a $1.7 billion arena and entertainment district in Tempe are teetering on a razor’s edge. Two sources with knowledge of the situation said that the Coyotes do not currently have the votes in the Tempe City Council to approve the project and move forward, although it should be noted that the proposal did not die in a recent executive session in December.

Per those sources, there are three yes votes, two no votes and two votes that are undecided, but leaning toward no after the Coyotes’ recent failure to pay taxes and bills came to light.

“The Coyotes certainly aren’t doing themselves any favors with the negative news stories,” one source said. “I would imagine if another negative story comes up on (owner Alex) Meruelo or the organization or their business practices, it probably will die. Those stories hurt tremendously.” 

On Sept. 2, the City of Tempe reported that the Coyotes were the only group to submit a proposal in response to its request for proposals for a 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 Tempe City Council has been mum on its opinion of the proposal and a potential date for a vote on that proposal, although sources expect that vote to occur while the current council is still seated. There are elections in March (primary) and May (general) with three seats available. Any new council members would be seated in July.

The city’s official response to all media inquiries since receiving the proposal has been a version of the same thing.

While the submittal is evaluated, and the city engages in intensive due diligence, Tempe representatives cannot discuss the matter. The City of Tempe anticipates that the next steps in this evaluation process will take many months and will include extensive examinations, as well as opportunities for community feedback.

The city hired a consultant who is expected to provide the council with more details on the project in the near future.

Proponents of the deal note that the project is essentially a free entertainment district that would generate jobs and millions of dollars for the city. While a portion of the city sales tax revenue generated by the site would be used to pay $200 million in additional costs, that revenue clearly would not exist without the development.

Proponents worry that if the deal is turned down, the Coyotes could pursue a deal with the nearby Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community.

“It would be right on Tempe’s border so Tempe would get all the problems including the traffic, and get none of the revenue,” a source said.  

Opponents wonder about the financing of the deal. While the Coyotes have said that the deal would be privately financed, there is no indication who their investors are, or how solid that financing is.

Recent stories have suggested that the site’s proximity to Sky Harbor International Airport, coupled with the height of some structures could pose a problem, but multiple sources believe that the airport concerns are a non-issue, with many suggesting that opponents such as the City of Phoenix are using it to kill the deal because the development would be in direct competition with downtown Phoenix and Footprint Center, home of the Suns. The Coyotes hired a Federal Aviation Administration consultant early in the process to guide them through any potential issues.

It is unclear if the Goldwater Institute will get involved as it did during the negotiations with Glendale previously. One source suggested that the conservative and libertarian watchdog group was gearing up for a fight, but another source familiar with the situation told PHNX Sports that Goldwater has been apprised of the proposal and the Coyotes are willing to work with Goldwater to address any issues.

“They have had a seat at the table from the start,” the source said.

When reached for comment previously, all that a spokesperson for Goldwater would say is: “We are still looking at it, but appreciate you checking in.”

The land site in question for the development was previously used as a sand and gravel mining operation and a dump. It would require an estimated $70 million in remediation costs. The Coyotes have proposed to pay $40 million for the eastern parcel to cover a portion of the remediation cost, but their willingness to pay their entire cost might be enough to sway the council, one source said.

While a number of Coyotes fan groups were actively involved when the City of Glendale was set to vote on an arena-lease agreement with the Coyotes in 2013, few citizen groups have come out in support of the Tempe proposal. That may be changing. A group of Coyotes fans began mobilizing last week, with plans to voice their support of the proposal.

The next Tempe City Council meeting is set for Thursday at 5 p.m.

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  • Do the Coyotes actually have a plan B with the Salt River Community? I had not heard about that until now. Either way, you have to be concerned about the continued silence on where the team is supposed to play next season. Perhaps there are no plans because there will not be a next season. Really hoping I’m wrong. Regardless, I will continue to go as many games as I can this season to get my fill. Looking forward to the Toronto game.

    • That was the first I have heard fit, at least this time around. Not certain what the state of things is with the SRPMIC.

  • Why am I not surprised, especially about the part that Meruelo has greatly harmed his team by failing to timely pay bills (taxes, rent and player signing bonus monies) over the last two years. While the Coyotes seem to be current on all bills as of now, did Meruelo think that not paying bills on time would not cause ramifications?

  • Really hoping those two fence-sitters are using it to try to get one last concession from the Mereulo group

  • Attending the games were the most fun nights of my life.
    I’m sure sorry and hope they and the city of Glendale can get back together and work this out.

  • If the Coyotes want to have this deal come to fruition they definitely can’t have anymore screw ups. They need to pony up more money.

  • Not the best news, obviously, hopefully our loyal and faithful fans can help sway the undecided votes in a yes direction. I’m sure Glendale is salivating over this news, along with all the other “move em” folks. Hopefully Mr. Muerlo will have a concrete answer to any all questions regarding his late payments and can reassure the council. Perhaps it would be helpful to disclose where they will be playing next year? Hopefully, there really is a Plan B…

  • Seems like EVERY time a little adversity pops up, the relocationists pop up out like groundhogs and we are off to Houston, KC or heaven help us, Quebec….I am all for making my feelings known in a polite way to the Tempe leaders in a council meeting. But I have read some people’s comments about a letter to the Tempe council getting really pushy and stating they will remember when it comes time to vote in the next election…REALLY?? Tempe will work at their own pace just like Glendale did. Creating a tax district isnt something that can be just thrown together overnight. Getting the EPA to provide an estimate on what it will take to clean up that landfill wont happen overnight either. There are lots of moving pieces in all this and Tempe wants to get it right because this is a BIG commitment. As it has been stated previously, go to the council meetings, let them know that this will be a place for entertainment that Tempe can be proud of and you as a citizen will attend events (hockey, concerts, conventions)with family and friends. Thats how we can support this…(ranting over)

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