[VIEWPOINT] What does voters’ Coyotes rejection say about economic development?

By Roland Murphy | AZBEX 

Earlier this week, Tempe voters rejected three measures that would have green-lighted the $2B-plus proposal from the Arizona Coyotes to build a new hockey arena and multi-faceted mixed-use entertainment district on 46-City-owned acres. 

The Coyotes development would have been largely self-funded. The agreementbetween the City and the team clearly laid out both parties’ obligations. Since the rejection, the various controversies and the terms of the plan and supporting agreement have been extensively covered both here and elsewhere; we won’t bother to rehash them.  

I’ve said before that one of my favorite movie scenes is the opening arguments from “A Few Good Men.” Something about Kevin Bacon’s delivery of the line, “These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed,” gives me a rallying point for the hope that reasoned debate and a clear assessment of facts will lead people to rational outcomes in reviewing controversial issues. 

In our current development environment, however, the facts of the case often become not only disputed, but irrelevant to opponents, who simply pretend things like development agreements, traffic impact studies, civil engineering reviews, economic studies and the very laws of physics are lies intended to help “greedy developers” push their “neighborhood destroying” projects through city councils that are either too dumb or too corrupt to see or care that they are being taken for a ride. 

A Massive Misinformation Campaign

In recent years there has been growing pushback against publicly funded sports stadiums and similar projects. Given Arizona’s mixed bag of benefits from such projects, that is a topic worthy of extensive debate. Do the public benefits in terms of economic ripple effects offset the massive outlays of public treasure to build billion-dollar homes for multi-billion-dollar teams? It depends on the team, the market and whom you ask. 

What is not debatable about the Coyotes plan is that it was self-funded and referred to by multiple market watchers and analysts as one of the most responsible and well-structured sports facilities deals in U.S. history. 

In the end, however, a massive, multi-tiered and multi-faceted opposition campaign laid waste to the facts of the case. As much as they would like to promote themselves as passionate local activists running a humble grass-roots effort fueled by nothing more than moxie and civic pride, the opposition was well-funded and better organized than a simple cadre of Karens.  


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May 2023