By Chris Spidle
Tempe, Arizona continues to consider proposed developments for 46-acre site.
As noted, previously, the City of Tempe, Arizona issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in July, 2021. The major requirement for consideration of a response was the ability to bring a “franchise” sports team to the site. The solicitation was pointed squarely at the Phoenix Coyotes hockey club which currently plays in Glendale, Arizona.
The Coyotes have had a contentious relationship with the City of Glendale resulting with threats by the City to “lock out” the Coyotes if they do not pay current their taxes and other related obligations. This was recently reported in the media (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/arizona-coyotes-just-forgot-to-pay-a-13-million-tax-bill-anybody-buying-that/ar-AAREAxh).
The Coyotes submitted a development plan for the Tempe site and immediately incurred the rath of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX). The Airport located only a few thousand yards west of the site is one of the busiest airports in the United States. The Airport objects to the height of the buildings proposed, indicating it may require alterations to the3 FAA approved flight patterns and other mitigating actions. Traffic on nearby freeways (known as “the 101” and “the 202” could be jammed during hockey games causing missed flights and other disruptions at the airport.
The major limiting factor for those responding to the RFP is a requirement to locate a franchised sports team on the site. This requirement is fairly limiting as a rundown of available franchises will include the Arizona Cardinals who paly near the Glendale hockey facility in a state-of-the-art facility; the Arizona Diamondbacks; well established in an iconic facility with an opening roof in downtown Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns who play at the downtown Suns Arena and Phoenix Rising professional soccer club which is currently building a new facility elsewhere. Essentially few options for “a franchise” exist.
A small group of developers has proposed to develop the site within the confines of the airport requirements and meeting all the objectives of the City of Tempe. These objectives include 200,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 upscale residences plus parking, pedestrian areas, and transportation interface facilities. The group has proposed an American Basketball League team franchise which is confirmed with a letter of intent from an ABA team owner. The group also proposes a Jai Alai fronton on the site, introducing the fast and exciting Basque game to southwestern United States. Therefore, the groups requirement for a franchise is viable.
More than 100 interested parties registered to download the RFP documents. Reports in the press and on the street seem to indicate only the Coyotes presented a proposal. The appearances are that only the Coyotes submitted plans and now they appear to be in dire financial straits with nowhere to play in the 2022 season and their financial dirty laundry being aired in public. It has become common knowledge in the community through very knowledgeable sources that the Coyotes are in deep financial trouble. This may even lead to them relocating to another city out of state.
So, where does that leave Jai Alai and basketball? From some perspectives, the Jai Alai and basketball facility at the core of the development are the only viable alternative for the City of Tempe if they continue to seek a franchise for the site. The city is fully aware of this while awaiting a final decision on the Coyotes. The group of proposed developers for the site are seeking to be “second choice” and are being eyed as such by the City of Tempe. We must let the Coyotes debacle play out.
The strategy is that if the Coyotes withdraw for any reason, the City of Tempe should reopen (not re-solicit) the development request for proposals. By reopening the original solicitation, only those developers who originally registered will be able to submit This is what is anticipated to happen. The Jai Alai proposal will then be submitted with the basketball franchise as the qualifying element.
A small group of development professionals having considerable experience in sports development has come together informally to support the proposal. Right now, it is a waiting game. A decision on the Coyotes proposal for the site is anticipated soon. When that happens all Jai Alai resources available will be called upon to push the proposal through. The National Jai Alai Association and Benny Bueno have been actively supporting the local Arizona efforts and will play a significant role in getting this project to market.
All potential resources or interested parties are encouraged to be prepared to contribute according to their skills and abilities. We are intent on getting Jai Alai back on track through expansion beginning in Arizona. I can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.