Students and Tempe residents rallied against the proposed Tempe Entertainment District in downtown Tempe on Monday.
Presenters represented local advocacy groups including Arizona Students' Association at ASU, Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity and the Arizona Poor People's Campaign. Their arguments against the proposed project, which is up for a citywide vote in May, were varied in their content but similar in their goal.
In the Rio Salado neighborhood, protestors held signs that said "No handouts for corrupt billionaires."
The event was held to raise awareness against Propositions 301, 302 and 303. If all the propositions pass, the Tempe Entertainment District will be approved and the Arizona Coyotes will have a new home.
President of ASA at ASU and a sophomore studying justice studies and sociology, Andrea Soto, said the project and Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo do not align with the values of students in Tempe.
"This isn't someone who aligns with our values as student leaders, and it's not someone we want to deal with as we complete our degrees, grow our careers and embark on improving life for all people in Tempe and beyond," Soto said at the event.
Soto said the project "ignores community needs," especially housing insecurity.
Democracy defender director at Arizona AANPHI May Tiwamangkala said the arena could be a gentrifying force in the city. They said this could affect ASU students specifically.
"Knowing how gentrification harms communities, we are extremely concerned about the well-being of students since housing prices and living costs will soar," Tiwamangkala said. "The entertainment district doesn't consider the budgets of ASU students..."
If approved, the hockey arena and the music venue would receive a 30-year Government Property Lease Excise Tax abatement. A GPLET is an Arizona statute that incentivizes development by allowing developers to pay an excise tax instead of paying property taxes for a set period of time.
Other speakers talked about the potential environmental impacts of the district, which would be built on the northeast corner of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway, right on the shoreline of Tempe Town Lake. However, former Tempe city councilmember and senior global futures scientist at ASU, Lauren Kuby, said the project could be dangerous for local water infrastructure.
"I'm here to sound the alarm about the negative environmental impacts of the taxpayer-funded stadium district," Kuby said. "This ill-advised development will increase our water use in a time when we've been reducing our consumption."
President of the Riverside Homeowner's Association Philip Yeates, who hosted the event on his lawn, said if the deal passes it would be the "worst decision of his lifetime." He said the increase in traffic in Tempe would create a more dangerous environment for families.
"They're little kids playing here in the streets sometimes because this is a family community, not a Las Vegas Strip," Yeates said at the event.
At the end of the event, two people from the organized group dressed as cartoon billionaires with top hats, gold dollar sign necklaces and glasses of "champagne" took the stage and mockingly said "You're welcome, plebians!" in response to questions about the legitimacy and purpose of their project. They were resoundingly booed off the property by the presenters.
The special election for the three propositions will take place on May 16, and mail ballots will be mailed to residents on April 19.
Edited by Reagan Priest, Jasmine Kabiri and Anusha Natarajan.
Shane Brennan is the Editor-in-Chief at The State Press. He was a sports and politics reporter, before becoming the editor of the politics desk. He has covered local and state politics for the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News.