Group calls out Coyotes owner surrounding proposed entertainment district

The group Tempe 1st is telling people to vote no, and going as far as calling Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo a “corrupt billionaire.”
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 4:27 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 8:36 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Tempe residents are now less than two months away from voting on the proposed new home for the Arizona Coyotes. The new entertainment district would bring housing, restaurants and shops to the area if voters approve the three propositions, which would sell land from the city and rezone that land from commercial to mixed-use. However, the group Tempe 1st is telling people to vote no, and going as far as calling Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo a “corrupt billionaire.”

One by one, members gave their reasons for voting “no” on the proposal during a news conference at a home impacted by the proposed complex. Some had concerns about the nearly $2 billion proposed district’s environmental impact and questions about how the 7,000 proposed jobs will be filled. Others said they don’t trust what the Coyotes and those affiliated with them are saying. “We see this project for what it is, a way to ignore community needs and issues such as homelessness and affordable housing,” said ASU student Andrea Soto. “Mr. Meruelo has a long history of not paying taxes, skipping out on rent. He is notorious for paying workers less than they were promised.”

May Tiwamangkala, the Democracy Defender Director for Arizona AANHPI for Equity, said that her organization is concerned with the rising costs of living for ASU students in the region. “Our voices will become obsolete as we compete against the dollars that corporations use to lobby our elected officials. This isn’t just about sports,” she said. “This is about giving power back to the people so we can work together to revitalize the community.”

Senior global futures scientist and former Tempe Councilwoman Lauren Kuby said her main concern was the hockey arena’s water use. “No analysis was provided on the water use,” she said. “The city estimates that the Coyotes’ project will use 1 million gallons of water a day and that doesn’t even include the outdoor ice skating rink where the team will practice.” Kuby said she finds the propositions not just ill-advised but wasteful during the Tier 2 drought status that Arizona is in.

In response to calling Meruelo a “corrupt businessman,” attorneys for the pro-district group Tempe Wins, Meruelo’s company Bluebird Development and Meruelo himself have sent Tempe 1st cease and desist letters. Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez has spoken at several community meetings regarding homeowners’ concerns. “There’s been questions around what does this do to my property tax? It doesn’t change it at all. What does this do in terms of the money we have to put up to remediate that landfill? You will not have to do that,” Gutierrez previously explained. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in late November the project would be funded solely through private funds. However, the team is asking for breaks on property and sales taxes. The developers would pay no property taxes on the buildings surrounding the stadium for 30 years. Tempe 1st says that’s the equivalent of giving the team a $500 million tax break.

Tempe 1st will host an information session about the propositions on March 25 from 4-7 p.m. Gutierrez said there are plans for another information session before voting day. For Tempe residents looking to vote on the propositions, they have to be registered by April 17. May 9 is the mail-by date to ensure the Tempe Elections Center receives all ballots. After that date, residents can drop off their ballots at authorized voting centers. To read each of the propositions in detail, click here.