TEMPE, Ariz. — Voters appeared to have rejected the three propositions that would have allowed developers to construct the $2.3 billion Tempe Entertainment District, election results show.
By a 56-44 split, the initial results for Tempe's special election show more voters chose to say "NO" to let developers build a massive complex that includes a new sports arena for the Arizona Coyotes.
Tuesday's first drop of ballot results dealt a devastating blow to an NHL team that had hoped to find a new permanent home in the East Valley.
Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said Tuesday night he was disappointed by the election results and that the team's future will be evaluated in the coming weeks by owners and the NHL.
"While we wanted a different outcome, we remain grateful to all those who volunteered their time and talent," Gutierrez said.
The arena would have been surrounded by retail, entertainment, and residential space. The 46-acre project site is currently home to a city-owned landfill.
Back in November, the city adopted a resolution and ordinance authorizing the TED project, which would be built near Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway. But city leaders allowed voters to hold a referendum to either approve or reject the large-scale project.
Tempe voters were asked to respond to three separate propositions that asked three questions: whether to approve rezoning the property for the entertainment district, whether to approve amending the city's General Plan for the TED project, and whether to approve the project's development agreement.
The 29,000 ballots tabulated thus far show the proposal being defeated. The election staff has about 4,200 ballots left to tabulate.
As of 8 p.m., the results are as follows:
Proposition 301 had 16,193 "no" votes and 12,738 "yes" votes (56%-44%)
Proposition 302 had 15,681 "no" votes and 12,208 "yes" votes (56%-44%)
Proposition 303 had 15,981 "no" votes and 12,004 "yes" votes (57%-43%)
The election results can be seen here.
But Tempe's leaders have already seen enough election results to acknowledge defeat.
The Tempe City Council issued the following statement in reaction to Tuesday's election results:
“Tempe voters have spoken and we respect their voices. Our unanimous vote in November 2022 to move the Tempe Entertainment District forward, after months of due diligence and negotiations, showed our enthusiasm for this project and our belief that it was in the best interests of the community. Enough residents did not share our view and we accept this result.
The Arizona Coyotes have been good partners in this effort. We believe Alex Meruelo, Xavier Gutierrez and the whole organization have put forward their best for our community and for this proposal. We are grateful for the resounding community support from past Mayors and City Councils, from the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, Tempe Tourism, the Black Chamber of Arizona and so many more.
It’s time to move forward. Above all, we as Tempe residents are neighbors and friends who can determine where we will go next. This fall we will offer public input opportunities to begin creating a path forward for this important property.”
What's the controversy?
Since Tempe announced it would hold a special election on the project, several arguments have been made that have advocated both for and against the arena.
Supporters claim the entertainment district would generate several jobs and new tax revenue for the city.
But skeptics pointed out the Arizona Coyotes' troubled tenure at Glendale's Gila River Arena as a reason to be wary about letting the team build a 16,000-seat arena.
"Study after study demonstrates that professional sports arenas are poor public investments that fail time after time to bring in the promised economic benefits to communities," one Tempe resident wrote in the election's publicity pamphlet.
The City of Phoenix resorted to filing litigation against Tempe after expressing concerns about the project's proximity to Sky Harbor's flight paths.
The development firm of the Coyotes responded to Phoenix's lawsuit with a complaint seeking $2.3 billion in damages from the city.
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