West Chandler and Tempe are about to get a major influx of sports, entertainment and recreation options as well as job opportunities with the announcement of massive projects that will create a miniature city at Wild Horse Pass on the Gila River Indian Reservation.
Coming to Wild Horse Pass, southwest of the Interstate 10/Loop 202 interchange in West Chandler:
- An 11-story second hotel tower at Wild Horse Pass Hotel, nearly doubling capacity to 447 rooms.
- A 3,300-acre mini-city commercial development, headlined by an events center and concert amphitheater, that will be rolled out over a decade. Included in the plan are five more hotels, a theme park, water park, timeshare complex, third golf course, vastly expanded equestrian center, villas, retail and office space.
- Interstate 10 widening to four lanes plus a High Occupancy Vehicle lane in each direction from the Interstate 17 split near downtown Phoenix to Loop 202 at the Wild Horse Pass doorstep. A study also has begun to expand the freeway to three lanes each way south to State Route 387 in Casa Grande, the final 26-mile stretch of two-lane freeway between Phoenix and Tucson, making access to Wild Horse Pass easier from central and southern Arizona. This comes just over a year after the Loop 202 segment connecting I-10 in West Chandler to I-10 in west Phoenix opened, making the drive for West Valley residents faster and easier.
- And, a championship-caliber soccer team in a new 10,000-seat stadium when the Phoenix Rising Football Club relocates to the reservation in March.
The projects will provide new revenue streams to the Gila River Indian Community and create thousands of jobs at buildout over the next 10 years.
“The new development plan will create exceptional entertainment and lifestyle experiences, new jobs for community members, and will evolve our culture and legacy,” said David White, Wild Horse Pass Development Authority General Manager.
The new development will enhance an already vibrant Wild Horse Pass area that includes two high-end resort hotels — Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino and Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Aji Spa, Phoenix Premium Outlets mall, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and lake, Bondurant High Performance Driving School, Rawhide Western Town & Event Center, Whirlwind Golf Club, Huhugam Heritage Center and KOLI Equestrian Center.
The goal at build-out is to make Wild Horse Pass the premier destination for sports, entertainment and recreation in Arizona.
Stadium, training complex for Phoenix Rising
The soccer complex will be the first to open, in March, in time for Phoenix Rising FC’s preseason training and May 1 opening of their United Soccer League season.
The club played the past four years at 6,200-seat Casino Arizona Field, northeast of the Loop 101/Loop 202 interchange near Scottsdale. The team sold out 23 consecutive matches before COVID-19, building a rowdy, loyal fanbase in the stands and a winning product on the field. The Rising reached the 2020 USL championship game but the pandemic forced cancellation of the match.
The facility was not fan friendly.
The Rising and the Gila River Indian Community will share costs of the as-yet-unnamed 10,000-seat stadium, which is expandable and could accelerate the club’s plan to grow into a Major League Soccer franchise. Team officials said they will try to attract MLS preseason games to the new stadium.
“This partnership with the Gila River Indian Community allowed us to quickly expand our capacity, improve our fan experience, which is extremely important to our organization, and also allows for long-term exciting things,” said Bobby Dulle, Rising general manager. “So it checked a lot of boxes for us. We’ve had a great four years where we were but this is just an opportunity for us that made a lot of sense.”
The practice fields are in and ready. Work is progressing on the stadium.
“Everything is happening in and around the facility right now at an unbelievable pace,” Dulle said.
Fans will notice several upgrades from the Risings’ previous facility, including faster entrance and exit with more access points, paved roads and parking areas, a large two-sided video board, improved VIP luxury seating, new family-friendly general admission section opposite the lively Los Bandidos and Red Fury fan groups, larger press box, improved sound system, new locker rooms and permanent restrooms with plumbing.
“We were using Porta Johns,” Dulle said. “Our fans and our partners and our premium guests are all going to be very excited with their experience this year. Some premium seating will be enclosed and air conditioned and some will be open air. What we found, and this is a unique thing about soccer, is the fans standing and chanting and singing when we score goals, banging on their drums. That’s the sound of soccer. People prefer to be outside and feel the energy from the crowd and environment and it’s a fantastic experience. We’ll have 10,000 spectators but we’ll still have an intimate feeling and that motivates our players.”
2nd tower at Wild Horse Pass Hotel opens this fall
In the first expansion at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino since it opened in 2009 at 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., the superstructure of an 11-story second tower is nearly complete.
It will add 205 guest rooms, including 37 suites – two of them 1,500-square-foot Platinum Suites, and increase the hotel’s inventory to 447 rooms. The new tower will boast a rooftop restaurant to provide a dining venue with views of the sun setting over the Estrella Mountains. A bar and lounge will be on the second floor.
Two new swimming pools, including an adult pool for guests 21 and older, and the Oasis pool with hot tubs, cabanas and a bar and grill, are included in the $143 million project.
“This expansion furthers our vision to provide additional economic development opportunities for Wild Horse Pass, GRIC and the greater metropolitan Phoenix area,” said Donald Antone, chairman of the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority Board of Directors.
The casino and convention center also will be improved. New colors, new carpeting, new lighting and an 80-foot by 12-foot LED screen are part of the casino upgrade. The convention center gets an additional 18,000 square feet indoors and additional 4,000 square feet outdoors.
“This expansion is a major investment in the Gila River Indian Community and symbolic of a new chapter in our history,” said Gila River Hotels & Casinos CEO Kenneth Manuel. “It reflects our commitment to be a leader in the gaming and hospitality industry through enhanced experiences and amenities, and we look forward to seeing the continued representation of our community’s culture in the expansion project.”
Massive development along I-10, Loop 202
This month, the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority selected Scottsdale-based Sunbelt Holdings to lead commercial development of 3,300 acres at Wild Horse Pass south and west of the hotel, casino and outlet mall along I-10 and Loop 202.
“We are grateful to have been selected to partner with Wild Horse Pass Development Authority and the Gila River Indian Community at a pivotal time for the development,” said John Graham, chairman and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings. “We are committed to honoring the legacy and culture of the community and creating a sense of place that will pave the way for the future.”
Among Sunbelt’s property-development portfolio in the Valley are Marina Heights at Tempe Town Lake and Arizona State University Research Park in South Tempe.
The scope of this project exceeds both of those developments.
The Wild Horse Pass master plan was developed by the project team of CallisonRTKL, Kimley Horn and Elliott D. Pollack & Company.
Sunbelt Holdings will lead the master-planned development effort, providing asset management, construction management and marketing services for the master plan.
“Sunbelt Holdings’ proven expertise and reputation in master-plan development, their blue-ribbon portfolio and deeply-rooted community connections made them the ideal partner for this expansion project,” said White, the WHPDA general manager.
Two I-10 widening projects coming
Just as completion of Loop 202 opened access to Wild Horse Pass from the West Valley, the three-year I-10 Broadway Curve project, which is to begin this summer from the Interstate 17 split near downtown Phoenix south to Loop 202, will enhance access from the city center and North Valley.
The project will add an additional lane in each direction and a new interchange at State Route 143 to enhance connection to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Expansion of I-10 south to Casa Grande will be farther down the line, but Arizona Department of Transportation has begun a study, in cooperation with the Gila River Indian Community, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Federal Highway Administration and Maricopa Association of Governments, with a goal of reducing traffic congestion on the freeway at the Wild Horse Pass exit.
This study includes whether to extend the High Occupancy Vehicle lane on I-10 south from Loop 202 to the Riggs Road interchange and improvement options for existing interchanges and roads that cross over I-10 along this corridor.
Pinal County cities Casa Grande, Coolidge and Florence are growing rapidly.
Soccer is especially popular in Tucson and Casa Grande.
The I-10 bridges over the Gila River are part of a separate project.
Updates may be found at the study website, i10Wild Horsepasscorridor.com.
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