The Arizona Coyotes conceded defeat after voters in Tempe rejected their $2.1 billion development plan by a seemingly insurmountable margin after all early votes were tallied on Tuesday.
Maricopa County election officials said they counted some 29,153 ballots before Election Day. There weren’t enough same-day ballots left to count to overturn the losing margins.
Tuesday’s unofficial tally shows similar trends among the three ballots – Proposals 301, 302 and 303 – which all needed to receive a majority of “yes” votes for Project Coyotes to go ahead. Everyone was losing by a margin of 56% to 44%, except for Prop. 303, which lost 57% to 43%.
The result, if confirmed, casts doubt on the future of the National Hockey League team, which had staked its future on a new arena and related entertainment and residential project on the western fringe of Tempe. Town Lake.
Local opponents of the plan were delighted.
“This is a Tempe win for Tempe,” Tempe 1st, the opposition campaign, wrote in a statement on the results. “Tonight we want to say congratulations and thank you to our fellow Tempe people.”
But for the Coyotes, Tuesday was a bitter and costly pill.
“We are very disappointed that the voters of Tempe did not approve Propositions 301, 302 and 303. As Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said, it was the best sports deal in the history of the Arizona,” Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez said. will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the next few weeks.
Election workers at the Tempe History Museum said they saw a steady stream of last-minute voters on Tuesday, with dozens continuing to show up even as storms battered Tempe later that evening.
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Former Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby, a vocal opponent of the deal, said she saw hundreds of voters enter the polling place after they began camping outside the building at noon.
Everything indicates that voters in Tempe turned out in near record numbers.
County election officials have begun processing Election Day ballots, but won’t release any more results until Wednesday. They told The Arizona Republic that they expect a second and final batch to be released on Wednesday afternoon.
Regardless of the number of votes cast on Election Day, the final turnout is on track to be the highest in any Tempe election in the past 13 years. About 32% of Tempe voters had already turned in their ballots last week.
The Arizona Republic will update this article as more ballots are counted. Check back for the unofficial final results on Wednesday.
About the agreement
The Arizona Coyotes submitted their proposal to Tempe in late 2021, which involved building nearly 2,000 apartments, an NHL arena and entertainment district on 46 acres of land west of Tempe Town Lake. It has become one of the largest and most controversial developments in the city’s history.
Tempe found itself in the middle of a long-distance court battle over the deal, and nearly every aspect of the proposal — from its economic merits to the tax breaks included, to the claims the team made about the site of the property – had been heavily scrutinized for over a year.
Controversy even drove Tuesday’s election. Outside activist groups were expected to put the deal back to the ballot because they were upset with the project’s lack of affordable housing, the tax breaks it was to receive and the number of unionized workers it would employ.
That left Tempe and the Coyotes with only two choices: either put the deal on the ballot themselves or wait for someone else to do it. They opted for the former and called an election on May 16.
Since then, the election campaign has been tense. On the one hand, the opposition group Tempe 1st brought corruption charges against Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo, arguing the city was being ripped off. The campaign worked to see the deal defeated on a budget of just $35,000.
The Coyotes’ Tempe Wins campaign, supporting the plan, raised around 35 times as much money as that – the vast majority of which came from Meruelo’s development company. He spent over $700,000.
Supporters also threatened legal action in response to the corruption allegations, argued the deal was a tax slam dunk for the city, and vowed to turn a “landfill into a landmark” at no cost to taxpayers.
The outcome of Tuesday’s election has major ramifications for the city’s coffers for generations to come. The project site is the “last volume” of land Tempe has left to be developed, so the city had to make it count.
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