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From Landfill to Landmark - Why I’m Voting No on the Arizona Coyotes in Tempe Prop 301, 302, and 303

On May 16th, 2023, the voters of Tempe will decide whether they want the Coyotes or not. I’ll be voting no and here is why.

Daniel Velez
Daniel Velez
4 min read

I was a sophomore at FIU when Marlins Park opened in Miami. I went to the first game at the stadium with my Dad and watched them lose (they do a lot of that). The Marlins are notorious for having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. They said a new stadium would put them in a position to spend more on players. They splurged on payroll the first season the ballpark opened and then traded them all away that same year. They promised Marlins Park would generate billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity for Miami. It did not. There are still empty retail spaces next to the ballpark, which the team owns.

The deal was so bad for Miami that it sparked a nation-wide movement against publicly funded stadiums. 80% of the Marlins Park, which cost over $600 million dollars, used public dollars.

In the agreement between the Marlins and Miami-Dade County, there was a stipulation that said that Marlins then team owner, Jeffery Loria, wasn’t allowed to sell the team until a certain number of years passed. As soon as he could contractually sell the team, he did. He bought the team for $158 million dollars in 2002; He sold the team for $1.2 billion dollars in 2017. The large increase in value was largely due to a stadium the people of Miami-Dade funded.

Now to Tempe.

The Arizona Coyotes want to build a stadium in Tempe. This is a different deal compared to the Marlins. The City of Tempe will be giving the Coyotes land and the Coyotes would be responsible for building the stadium. It’s the City’s last large parcel. A promise of more economic activity is obvious because there is none currently happening on Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway.

On May 16th, 2023, the voters of Tempe will decide whether they want the Coyotes or not.

I’ll be voting no.

The Coyotes suck. They suck as a sports franchise and they suck as stewards of The Valley. The City of Glendale built them a stadium which they played in for 19 years. They wanted to get an upgrade and threatened to leave but Glendale called their bluff and kicked them out. The city would make more money hosting concerts periodically than having the Coyotes play 41 home games there.

The Coyotes are a refugee professional sports franchise and ASU is temporarily housing them in their hockey arena that fits 1/4 of the seating of a pro hockey stadium. It’s an embarrassment to the National Hockey League.

Tempe has become the last girl at the party that the desperate guy hasn’t hit on yet. The City of Phoenix wants nothing to do with them. The City of Scottsdale rejected them. The City of Glendale dumped them. After being denied by everyone else, now you want to come to Tempe?

In 2021, the Coyotes faced eviction from their Glendale stadium because they amassed millions of dollars of unpaid bills. Yet, we Tempe residents are expecting them to fund and execute a multi-billion dollar project? The Mayor of Tempe even said, “This developer has never completed a project of this size or scope.”

I would love to see a sports-stadium-cum-entertainment-district in Tempe but I don’t trust the Coyotes to do it.

There have been some interesting politics around this proposed stadium deal that I’d like to comment on.

The reason the urban sprawl catastrophe that is the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale exists is because Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport didn’t allow the Arizona Cardinals to build a stadium in their hometown of Tempe. Because of this, the Cardinals play 17 miles away from Downtown Phoenix and a whopping 26 miles away from Downtown Tempe (two times the length of Manhattan). The Cardinals Stadium, for years, had cornfields adjacent to it. This area should have remained agricultural land but instead we have a football stadium here and low-density suburban sprawl that stretches for tens of miles in every direction away from the stadium. What’s going to happen to this place when the Cardinals bolt for Scottsdale?

Now the airport is putting up a fight against this proposed Coyote stadium. They did something that I had never seen before and I thought didn’t get enough news coverage. Phoenix Sky Harbor mailed political propaganda to Tempe residents in an effort to scare them from voting yes for the Coyotes proposal.

Imagine if the City of Tempe ran TV ads against the re-election of Phoenix’s mayor?

I understand that the airport is a big economic engine for The Valley and it needs to protect its interest but this crosses the line. It’s obvious that building an airport in the center of the metropolitan was always going to create issues for growth. It also seems convenient that Phoenix has two professional stadiums very close to the airport but puts up a fuss when Tempe wants to build one.

Whether the Coyotes get their stadium or not, PHX Sky Harbor needs to start acting like a landlocked downtown airport (because, it is) and embrace development that increases the vibrancy, density, and livability of Downtown Phoenix and Tempe. Instead of acting like the Denver Airport, which is 24 miles away from Downtown Denver with ample land they could expand to at will.

Maybe PHX Sky Harbor and the Westgate Entertainment District should switch places?

Let’s keep stadiums in downtowns and stop airports from wrecking downtown development projects.


Daniel Velez Twitter

Daniel is building the future of reuse. His last venture, Growly Delivers, delivered local beer in returnable high-tech growlers. What will he do next?


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