Unofficial results released Wednesday indicate that Tempe voters have rejected the proposed Tempe entertainment district and the potential new home for the Arizona Coyotes.
Maricopa County Elections Department results show that Propositions 301 and 302 failed by a vote of 56% to 44%, and Proposition 303 failed 57% to 43%. Voter turnout for the special election was 32.55%, but the results are not officially accepted until a citywide canvass which is scheduled for a Tempe City Council meeting on June 1.
The result throws a massive wrench into the Coyotes' plans to relocate permanently to Tempe and leaves the 46-acre plot of land on the northeast corner of Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive without a developer.
Tempe 1st was the opposition campaign in the election, and one of their leading members, former Tempe councilmember Lauren Kuby, said she felt overwhelming gratitude towards Tempe voters.
"I feel immense gratitude for Tempe voters to understand the complexity of this deal in this arrangement and see that it basically was a subsidy for a private businessman and a sports team owner and to realize it was the wrong project in the wrong place," Kuby said. "We need to go back to the drawing board to find a project that's more inclusive of our values."
Proposition 301 would have amended the city's General Plan 2040, streamlining the development of the land into "mix-use" for the city. Proposition 302 would have rezoned the land, and Proposition 303 would have approved the sale of the land to Bluebird Development LLC, the development company operated by Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo that would have undertaken the project's construction and majority of funding.
The election concludes a nearly six-month campaign in which current and former Tempe city officials sparred over the project's potential costs to Tempe taxpayers. The city of Phoenix sued the city for an alleged breach of contract due to the proximity of the proposal's housing developments to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Before moving the project to a citywide vote, the city council voted unanimously to approve the project back in November 2022 and was enthusiastically supported by Mayor Corey Woods.
In addition to a hockey arena for the Coyotes with 16,000 seats, the project would have included nearly 2,000 apartments, other businesses and retail locations.
The city council said in a statement on Wednesday that they accepted the election results and encouraged unity for all parties involved, including Tempe residents. In a statement, Woods said he is grateful for community members who voted in the election.
"This is why we as a City Council were determined to put these matters before voters so they could have their say," Woods said. "As Tempeans, we are united in our passion for this amazing city and I believe we will move forward together."
At a press conference in April, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman publicly supported the proposal and refused to speculate about the franchise's future if the project was not approved. The Coyotes will continue to play in ASU's Mullett Arena for another two years and have a one-year option at the end of that deal.
In a statement, Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said he was disappointed in the special election results.
"While we wanted a different outcome, we remain grateful to all those who volunteered their time and talent," Gutierrez said. "What is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks."
In a statement from Bettman, he said he was "terribly disappointed," and that the league will review potential options with the team going forward.
Edited by Angelina Steel and Jasmine Kabiri.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly added an extra year on the Coyotes' contract with Mullett Arena contract. The sentence has been changed to reflect the error.
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.