Tempe mayor dismisses airport concerns about Coyotes' arena plans

Gila Arena, seen in this 2011 file photo, will no longer be home to the Arizona Coyotes after June 30. The club is looking to build a new home in Tempe. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Arizona Coyotes' push for the construction of a new arena and multi-entertainment complex in Tempe looks to have the city's mayor in its corner, based on an interview he did with local sports news website GoPHNX.

Tempe city council voted 5-2 on June 3 in favour of opening negotiations over a proposal for a new home for the NHL team. The vote came after a marathon eight-hour special session of presentations and comments. The vote does not signal an approval of the arena, but opens the door for further study and public input on the nearly $2 billion project.

One of the stumbling blocks to the Coyotes' project, however, was made by the Phoenix airport authorities, Phoenix Sky Harbor, who were adamant that any proposal should not proceed if it included residential development, due to noise hazard from the proximity of the airport's runway. Tempe is a suburb of Phoenix and the Coyotes' proposal reportedly includes 1,000 residential units. Phoenix Sky Harbor said doing so would be contrary to an intergovernmental agreement between the two cities.

Tempe mayor Corey Woods told local reporter Craig Morgan he does not see it that way.

"I have a different view of the 1994 intergovernmental agreement than Phoenix Sky Harbor. I’ve had an opportunity to read over it myself and kind of do some analysis," Woods said. "Frankly, I’ve just sort of come to a different conclusion about what that IGA actually says, and a subsequent letter that was signed by the two mayors of Phoenix and Tempe at the time. I don’t believe that the multi-family housing is incompatible with what we could do within that area.

"I believe that single-family housing would be incompatible but not multi-family, especially if that multi-family housing has the right kind of sound mitigation when it comes to roof and building materials, windows and things of that nature."

The Phoenix Sky Harbor authorities were adamant that no amount of sound mitigation would suffice to allow for residential development.

Asked about a timeline for a decision on the project, Mayor Woods said: "I would really like to have this wrapped up by the fall; really by the end of 2022 at the absolute latest."

The Coyotes' current arena lease at Gila River is expiring on June 30. The team plans to play for at least the next three seasons at the 4,700-seat Arizona State University arena, beginning this fall.

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