NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks in support of Tempe sports complex

Scheduled press conference with Bettman moved after vandalism reported at first location


“Yes” and “No” Vote signs placed on University and Priest in Tempe.

Curt Arnold, Reporter

On May 16 Tempe voters will decide the fate of a proposed Tempe Entertainment District that will include a new hockey arena for the Arizona Coyotes, retail stores, restaurants and apartments. The proposed “Tempe Wins” campaign will include three ballot initiatives—Propositions 301, 302 and 303 to put the project into action. 

The Propositions center around the construction of a potential “entertainment district” for Tempe and has highlighted the need for a hockey arena where the Arizona Coyotes may finally and hopefully for many fans, provide a permanent place for the Coyotes to hang their jerseys. 

On Tuesday, a release informed the media as well as the public of a press conference scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. where NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, Arizona Coyotes legend Shane Doan and Coyotes CEO Xavier Gutierrez were slated to speak about the many advantages to Tempe and the Valley at large by voting “yes” on the ballot initiatives for the TempeWins.com campaign on May 16 in a special election for Tempe voters. 

The press conference was originally scheduled to take place outside a Tempe Goodwill location (Goodwill is a community partner with Arizona Coyotes) but the location was quickly moved after it was reportedly vandalized overnight with written opposition and “vote no” messaging on the Goodwill property. 

CEO Xavier Gutierrez, addressed the media and those in attendance including those who showed up in opposition of the Tempe wins campaign. He told the audience that the vandalism was an action of opponents to the campaign—even though reportedly, no suspects had been identified at the time of the conference. 

“Before we get started I do want to make some comments as to an occurrence that happened last night that led to us changing the venue to the Tempe Chamber for this press conference. Last night the Goodwill site in Tempe that we had originally scheduled to be at was vandalized. We are incredibly disappointed, we are incredibly angry by those actions and they were clearly the actions of critics and opponents of this campaign,” Gutierrez said. 

Cameras were reportedly present at the Goodwill site, but identification was reportedly difficult because of where the vandalism took place. A police report was taken and is currently under investigation. 

Gutierrez clearly wanted to steer the conversation back to the positive aspects of the campaign and to the TempeWins.com project. 

“We are here to talk about an opportunity again to bring jobs, to bring investment to the city for badly needed city services, to clean up a city owned toxic landfill, Brownfield, and Tempe taxpayers do not have to pay for it. For the first time in the history of Arizona, a sports and entertainment facility will not be paid for by taxpayers and will not be guaranteed by taxpayers. Alex Meruelo and his family are making a significant investment and we are asking Tempe voters to say yes to propositions 301 302 and 303 in a special mail in election by May 16th.” Gutierrez said. 

Coyotes legend Shane Doan spoke next. The longtime captain for the Arizona Coyotes is a hockey fan favorite and has contributed to the Arizona hockey family as well as numerous charitable endeavors within the Valley community.

“The vote for yes and what’s going to happen with prop 301, 302 and 303 is an incredible vote not just for us but for our home, for my home, for my community. I have two kids that live here in Tempe and are a part  of that and it gives us an opportunity to turn a landfill into something that is a place we can all gather and as our public officials have all got behind this that’s probably the most encouraging thing— is there are people who don’t have any connection to the Coyotes, simply their hearts are in it for the city of Tempe and it’s a great opportunity for the city of Tempe to grow,” Doan said. 

Doan introduced NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as a good friend and Bettman spoke of the long standing importance of the sport of hockey in Arizona what it can do for Tempe. 

“Nobody over the last two and a half decades could doubt the NHL’s  commitment to Arizona why? Because we believe that this is a place where hockey should be—permanently. We believe that being apart of this great community is something that enhances our game and we believe that finally we are at a place where we can ensure the future of the coyotes for the benefit not just of the coyotes or coyotes fans but for this community,” Bettman said. 

Bettman also mentioned the importance of Coyote’s owner Alex Meruelo and his commitment to not use taxpayer money as well as what the new stadium would bring to the city of Tempe as well as students of ASU.

But several longtime Arizona Coyotes fans only wanted to hear one thing…and Bettman delivered as close to an assurance as he could get about the future of Coyotes and NHL hockey in the Valley.  

“Once this project is built, this team is never going anywhere its going to be here forever and that is a great legacy for the Meruelo family and for the national hockey league and for Tempe. The future is bright and has never been brighter and that’s what this point in time represents,” Bettman said. 

Thirty to forty opponents showed up, held signs and voiced opposition to the project. Some pledged to continue to work to defeat all three Propositions. 

Tempe resident Jacob Perez voiced mistrust in the promises he was hearing from the “yes” proponents. 

“I’m voting no on all props. I just don’t really trust the Coyotes to actually get this stadium done and with the potential effects on the airport and our city, I just feel like there’s a better place they could go to, ” Perez said. 

“We need to give power back to the people and not have it in the hands of a shady billionaire. Meruelo doesn’t have the best track record and I just can’t trust that. What we really need is affordable housing and ways to fix homelessness, an arena wont help any of that,” said Tempe opposition activist, Nicholas Riveria. 

In addition to local opposition in Tempe, the City of Phoenix has filed a lawsuit against the City of Tempe over the planned residential area near Sky Harbor Airport. 

Phoenix’s aviation department filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court, accusing the neighboring suburb of breach of contract. In a news release, Phoenix officials say they have issues with the proposed residential units that would be in a 1.2 square-mile area that belongs to Tempe but is in a high-noise flight path. 

Reportedly in 1994 both Phoenix and Tempe agreed that there would be no housing developments within the airport’s 65-decibel noise contour lines. These were determined to help protect nearby residential neighborhoods from extreme noise.