By Neil Giuliano
I’m a 48-year Tempe resident, a passionate advocate for economic opportunity, diversity and quality of life issues. For fourteen of those forty eight years I served on city council; ten as mayor. I haven’t spoken out on city issues much since I left office in 2004, but now I am pleasantly compelled to do so.
Props 301, 302 and 303 will remove a 1950’s environmental liability, create a new multi-use development on the border of our city and bring jobs and income while fulfilling the private sector vision for the very west end of the Tempe Rio Salado project. Every major project is complicated and challenging, and our current city leaders have created a very positive financial deal for Tempe taxpayers, with a partner willing to heavily invest in the long-term betterment of the city. We have the opportunity to turn what is now a landfill at Rio Salado and Priest into a $2.1 billion, entirely privately-financed entertainment district with office, residential and retail uses. This is a transformative moment for our community. It would turn a graveyard of garbage and forever environmental headache into a clean, community-gathering space and economic engine.
The development will be anchored by a state-of-the-art new multi-purpose arena, housing the Arizona Coyotes, providing a new state-of-the-art facility to stage concerts, all-star games, rodeos, youth sports and a range of other events. It’s exactly the size venue that our city deserves and needs to attract conferences and conventions to fill the new hotel rooms in downtown and on this site. And to correct the misinformation: the arena is not a major stadium or ballpark; it’s the size and scope that is right for Tempe. But this ballot issue is about much more than an arena.
The leadership of the city and project developers understand that their shared vision is to build a vibrant, dynamic people-focused place, anchored by a major sports franchise with residential, hotel office space, a range of retail opportunities and a thriving new “Restaurant Row”, which is something we really need for residents and visitors alike. As a former elected official who balanced city budgets, I am very pleased all of the funds to finance this project are coming from private sources. There is zero general tax increase to Tempe residents. Zero. Not one dime of public money is at risk to develop a project that will create nearly 7,000 sustainable, good-paying jobs and bring a massive financial windfall for our city to help fund municipal services into the future: affordable housing, park improvements, public safety, emergency medical response and more. Many forget, in the wake of tremendous success, that we faced strong opposition to the development of Tempe Town Lake. It was called, “insane,” “a terrible idea” and dismissed as “never going to work.” Critics gripped the podium for hours at council meetings and explained how the project would ruin Tempe’s quality of life, no one would ever build anything next to the “fake lake”, you’re creating a “boondoggle” for the future.
Well, as we all know, the critics were wrong. There are cyclists and joggers, families strolling and a Tempe Performing Arts Center that charms thousands of event goers annually. We have lakefront office buildings filled with workers, and thousands now call the reclaimed area their home. This new project is a similar once-in-a generation opportunity. We can see it – because we’ve done it before with solid due diligence, the right deal and the right partners. It’s not just about professional hockey; it’s about making our wonderful city all that it can be for those who will follow us. And so I encourage you, your Tempe friends and neighbors, to join me in supporting Props 301, 302 and 303. And to once again stand with city leaders who have put forth an inspiring vision with amazing benefits.