Proposed Tempe Entertainment District

In July 2021, the City of Tempe solicited proposals to develop a new sports arena and mixed-use development adjacent to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Tempe received one proposal from Bluebird Development, a firm that represents the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Franchise. The proposed location is at the northeast corner of Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive. On June 2, the Tempe City Council voted to move forward with negotiations on the project.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport does not object to the construction a professional hockey arena at the location. The Airport does strongly object to the project’s proposed residential development, which would place nearly 1,700 residential units directly under a flight path which was designed to spare Tempe residents from the effects of aircraft noise. Including residential in this development would violate an intergovernmental agreement between the Cities of Phoenix and Tempe.  

On July 14, 2022 Sky Harbor raised concerns about an additional proposed development which would violate the same intergovernmental agreement if approved as planned. 

Four former City of Phoenix Mayors wrote this editorial explaining why it is important to the residents of Tempe for the residential component to be removed from the development plan.

On June 28, 2022, Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky sent a letter to Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching correcting statements by the Developer of the Proposed Tempe Entertainment District.

On June 1, 2022 the Regional Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration wrote a letter to the Tempe City Manager reaffirming that the FAA does not support residential development on the site of the Tempe Entertainment District, and that a proposal to sound insulate the new residential development would not solve the issue.

On May 26, 2022 an attorney for the City of Phoenix sent this letter to the Tempe City Attorney amplifying the Phoenix Aviation Department’s concerns about Tempe’s RFP, specifically the inclusion of residential, which violates an Intergovernmental Agreement between Phoenix and Tempe.

Channels 3/5 spoke with community members about their concerns, and with the attorney for the City of Phoenix who wrote the letter to the Tempe City Attorney:

The Phoenix Aviation Department has created a summary of slides that have been used in Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board meetings and other presentations to the community. Each slide is captioned with an explanation and context about the information provided.

Below is a timeline of events:

City of Phoenix Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky sent a letter regarding the Tempe Arena Request for Proposals, no. 22-030 (Rio Salado Pkwy & Priest Drive); Arizona Coyotes (IceArizona Hockey Co LLC) & Bluebird Development LLC’s Proposal to Nicholas Wood of Snell & Wilmer on Sept. 20. See the letter.

Sept. 24, 2021, Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky sent a letter to the procurement officer for Tempe Arena Request for Proposals, no. 22-030 inviting Tempe officials to begin discussions with Sky Harbor about key features of the proposed development. See the letter.

On Oct. 20, 2021 Airlines for America, which represents the busiest airlines at Sky Harbor, sent a letter on behalf of the Airline Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association, and the Regional Airline Association expressing concerns, requesting additional information, and urging a thorough evaluation of the proposed development.

On Oct. 21, 2021 staff from the Phoenix Aviation Department made this presentation to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board.

On Oct. 25, 2021 the attorney representing the developer of the proposed project sent a letter to the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. On Nov. 2, 2021, the Phoenix Aviation Department responded with this letter.

On Nov. 9, 2021 the attorney representing the developer of the proposed project sent this letter to Phoenix Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky as a follow-up to a meeting.

On Nov. 18, 2021 the Coyotes made a presentation to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board.

While the City of Phoenix Aviation Department has questions about several items in the Nov. 9 letter and the Nov. 18 presentation, technical meetings will be taking place in an effort to resolve remaining concerns.

While Sky Harbor awaits detailed data from the developer, the City of Phoenix Aviation Department has conducted an initial analysis of potential flight traffic over the proposed development. Sky Harbor has repeatedly called on the developer to provide the additional data it needs to conduct, along with its industry partners, a comprehensive analysis of potential impact.  It remains our goal to cooperatively work with the developer to mitigate identified impacts in order to protect the airport's ability to grow and serve our region for generations to come.

On April 6, 2022, the Director of Aviation Services was copied on a letter the FAA sent to the City of Tempe dated April 1, 2022 regarding the proposed Rio Salado Project. Please see Enclosure 1, an illustration of the proposed TED site PHX.

On April 8, the Coyotes responded to the FAA’s letter, with this correspondence.

  • The Coyotes’ letter contradicts the FAA’s clear statements (in its letter) that the proposed Tempe Entertainment District’s residential units would be considered incompatible land use because of their location in an area severely impacted by aircraft noise (65 DNL).
  • In their letter, the Coyotes point to what other communities have decided is acceptable, but the FAA states in its guidance letter to Tempe that residential is not a compatible land use in this location. Sky Harbor expects the Coyotes to live up to their commitment to “follow all FAA guidelines” for noise issues, and other issues raised by the FAA and Sky Harbor.
  • Sky Harbor and the City of Tempe have a longstanding Intergovernmental Agreement in place which dictates how aircraft may operate at Sky Harbor in order to minimize noise over existing Tempe neighborhoods. In exchange, Tempe agreed to not permit incompatible uses including new residential development in noise impacted areas. Elements of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District will violate this agreement if implemented regardless of proposed mitigations.
  • In order for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to grow and serve the entire community as the State’s number-one economic engine, it is imperative that land uses under the Airport’s flight paths are protected and compatible with Sky Harbor’s operations.

On April 21, Deputy Aviation Director Jordan Feld gave this presentation to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board.

After the April 21 presentation, the developer of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District sent follow-up questions about the construction crane and economic impact analysis. The Phoenix Aviation Department responded to the questions on May 6, 2022. In addition, the Aviation Department provided further Construction Crane and Economic Impact information requested by the developer.

On May 18, 2022, the Aviation Department received a copy of a letter sent by the Air Line Pilots Association to Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, expressing their continued concern with the Tempe Entertainment District development. It references a letter from Oct. 20, 2021 also linked on this page.

On May 19, 2022 both the City of Phoenix Aviation Department and The Tempe Entertainment District (TED) Development team presented to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board.

  • The Aviation Department’s presentation provided responses to previous questions from the Board. The content was based on the most recent information provided by the developer. While the TED developer’s presentation claims that the Aviation Department’s crane analysis was “fabricated,” the Aviation Department’s presentation was actually based on information provided by the developer. No corrections or changes were requested after Phoenix Aviation staff’s analysis was presented at the April 21 Board meeting, which has been publicly available on since that date.
  • The TED developer’s presentation provided information not previously shared with the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. Sky Harbor officials learned for the first time in the meeting that the developer plans to lower the project’s top construction crane height to 165 feet and has committed to the tallest crane being up no longer than 21 days. The Airport is pleased that the developer has listened to concerns about crane heights from the Airport and the airlines that serve it and is encouraged to see this change to the plan.
  • However, the developer did not accurately address the most important obstacle – the planned residential high rise building which violates an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Phoenix and Tempe. That agreement prohibits residential units from being built in the high noise impacted areas along the Salt River. In exchange, airlines departing to the east follow a flight path that protects other Tempe neighborhoods from excessive noise. The IGA is based on the FAA Part 150 study, which includes measures specifically created to prevent residential in the noise impacted area where TED is proposed. The developer’s presentation is misleading, as it uses a table from the introduction to the study chapter of the Part 150 Plan. That table is not part of the Plan for land use along the Salt River Corridor.
  • The foremost experts in Part 150 studies, the Federal Aviation Administration, previously wrote a letter to Tempe that explained their serious concern about this proposed development, clearly stating that residential development on this parcel is incompatible. City of Phoenix Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky made this point and more in his closing statement to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board.



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