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 and on November 29, 2022, the Tempe City Council voted unanimously to approve land use changes and an agreement with the developer of the Tempe Entertainment District, with the intention of having final approval of the project decided by Tempe voters in May 2023.

In the weeks leading up to the November 29 vote, Sky Harbor met with the City of Tempe and worked with the developer to ensure that the airport is provided protections to support its long term growth and future development. Negotiations wrapped up successfully prior to the Tempe City Council vote. Examples of additional developer protections include consultation on crane heights and mitigations should any crane create performance issues for our airlines, full indemnification against litigation over noise and vibrations caused by aircraft, noise mitigation and insulation, noise disclosures, avigation easements, wildlife studies, traffic mitigation studies and funding, glare/reflectivity mitigation, good neighbor agreement, and restrictions on events that may impact the operation of Sky Harbor.

Sky Harbor is also working with Tempe to seek a permanent resolution on our differences in interpretation of the binding Intergovernmental Agreement that exists between our two cities.

While the City of Phoenix Aviation Department still officially opposes the incompatible residential component of the Tempe Entertainment District development, we are grateful to the City of Tempe for taking actions to largely mitigate potential impacts of the development to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. We will continue to work with Tempe and the developer to move forward on the commitments made.

The following is a timeline of events leading up to the November 29, 2022 Tempe City Council meeting:

On Sept 20, 2021 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 had questions about several items in the Nov. 9 letter and the Nov. 18 presentation, technical meetings were scheduled in an  effort to resolve remaining concerns.

While Sky Harbor awaited detailed data from the developer, the City of Phoenix Aviation Department conducted an initial analysis of potential flight traffic over the proposed development. Sky Harbor 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.

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

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:

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.

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 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.

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

On Sept. 30, 2022,  the City of Tempe notified the City of Phoenix Aviation Department that it will be considering amendments to the Tempe General Plan to alter the current zoning on the site of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District. The City of Tempe (land owner) is requesting that the land zoning be changed to high-density, mixed-use, to accommodate residential, retail, restaurant, hotel, office, and multipurpose event center development

On Oct. 5, 2022 Director of Aviation Services Chad Makovsky received a  letter from the City of Tempe providing its response to the Aviation Department’s June 28, 2022 communication expressing its significant concerns with the Tempe Entertainment District.  Tempe notably increased proposed residential density under the flight path from 1,675 to 2,100+ residential units. Even with the Aviation Department’s ongoing efforts to resolve its concerns with the City of Tempe, this is the first time Tempe has explained its position on the IGA.  Sky Harbor’s staff is giving the letter careful review. However, the Airport’s initial review indicates no new or unexpected elements in Tempe’s position. Moreover, the letter contains little citation of relevant legal authority, ignores key provisions of the relevant documents and has several factual inaccuracies. And, if approved, Tempe’s action will place more residents directly under Sky Harbors busiest flight path in the 1.2 square mile high noise area than Sky Harbor has been able to eliminate over the last 25 years. 

As confusion over the terms of the Intergovernmental agreement (IGA), events that have occurred since the 1994 IGA, and where Sky Harbor stands on specific issues had surfaced, Sky Harbor shared answers to frequently asked questions on this issue.

Tempe announced that the Tempe Entertainment District proposal would be heard at two public hearings before the Tempe City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 22 and 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 29. Meeting details are posted on the City of Tempe’s website.

On November 14, 2022 the Director of Aviation Services sent a letter to Tempe’s principal planner in advance of the Development Review Commission meeting.

On November 15, the Tempe Development Review Commission approved the application for the rezoning of the proposed Tempe Entertainment District site, a clear violation of the City of Tempe’s binding Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the City of Phoenix where Tempe promised not to introduce incompatible land uses under the airport flight path. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is not opposed to a Coyotes arena or an entertainment district at the corner of Priest and Rio Salado in Tempe, but continues to object to planned residential high rises in that location. Including multi-family housing in the Tempe Entertainment District development would place up to 2,100 residential units in a high noise area directly under two converging flight paths – and in a location where Tempe and Phoenix agreed there would be no housing. The Airport is disappointed that the Tempe Development Review Commission approved the general plan/zoning map amendment with the residential component remaining in the plan.

On November 16, 2022 the Phoenix City Council approved the lease of airport-owned land to the Phoenix Rising professional soccer organization for a temporary outdoor stadium. The site is not under the flight path.


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