Could Tempe finally be on the verge of landing the professional sports franchise it has sought for years, as the centerpiece of a new arena and entertainment district on 46 city-owned acres at the northeastern corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway?
The Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League say they plan to respond to a Tempe request for proposal for the site, which likely would be a multi-billion-dollar package.
The city has placed an Aug. 19 deadline for responses to its RFP, in which it seeks a project incorporating a professional sports franchise and entertainment district for two parcels at the site.
The Coyotes play at Gila River Arena in Glendale, where their relationship with that city, which owns the building, has been rocky for years. While it is adjacent to State Farm Stadium, where the Arizona Cardinals play, as well as Westgate Entertainment District, a dining/shopping complex owned by Bob Parsons of PXG Golf and formerly Go Daddy fame, the hockey team is only an arena tenant.
In this potential Tempe venture, it could enjoy profits from ancillary development.
“Based on the site’s location, the Coyotes are highly interested in this development opportunity and will be responding to the City of Tempe’s request for proposal,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “Given our determination to remain in the Valley for many years to come, we are actively working to identify the best long-term home for the Coyotes, our devoted fans and this great community.”
Tempe said that bids from all respondents will be evaluated for projected economic impacts, job creation, public benefit, neighborhood impacts and traffic.
The site is just off Loop 202 adjacent to the Salt River and just west of Tempe Center for the Arts and Tempe Town Lake.
The city has tried for years to land a professional sports team. The Cardinals’ training facility is in South Tempe, at Warner and Hardy roads, and the team initially played its home games at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium before bolting to Glendale.
When the Cardinals were looking to move out of Sun Devil Stadium, new-stadium sites were proposed in Tempe at Interstate 10 and Warner Roads as well as on land in the general area of this RFP. The I-10/Warner Road site was rejected as too small, and the site along the river met with strong blowback from Phoenix due to its proximity to the flight path at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The latter could be an obstacle once again. Another could be cleanup of the site, which could be costly due to environmental concerns.
Glendale, which stands to lose the major tenant of its arena, said in a statement that the city “has been working since last year with the Arizona Coyotes and our arena manager, ASM Global, to determine if terms for a long-term agreement can be reached to allow the Coyotes to continue to play in Gila River Arena.”
“We remain committed to that goal,” the Glendale statement continues. “The highly recognized successes of our growing sports and entertainment district provides fans and visitors an immersive experience. The city believes that Gila River Arena is the best location for the future success of the Coyotes.”
Tempe City Council has ultimate authority to accept or reject proposals for further work and negotiation on its parcels. It is possible during any RFP process that no respondents are chosen to proceed, the city said.
It is not yet known if any other entities will respond to the request for proposal.
The RFP has been posted to tempe.gov/procurement.