A new soccer stadium near the Loop 101 and Loop 202 interchange could help transform the area into the Phoenix-area's newest top-tier sports and entertainment hub, bringing much-welcomed revenue to nearby businesses and cities.
Fans already can attend athletic events at Sun Devil Stadium and other Arizona State University venues in Tempe, catch a game at the Mesa spring-training ballpark for the MLB World Series champion Chicago Cubs, and in the future, possibly see the Arizona Coyotes play in a brand new arena.
In the meantime, construction will begin in the next few weeks on a pop-up, temporary soccer stadium for Arizona's only professional soccer team.
It'll be the latest addition to this busy crossroads that also includes Tempe Marketplace, Mesa Riverview, Casino Arizona and lots of empty tribal land zoned for mixed commercial use.
But in the coming years, the temporary structure will give way to a permanent, climate-controlled 20,000-plus seat stadium that will be the home to the Phoenix Rising Football Club, the re-branded name for the former Arizona United Soccer Club, team owners announced last week.
The announcement follows another big-budget stadium proposal just across the freeway: a $400 million hockey arena for the Arizona Coyotes and Arizona State University. That deal isn't finalized and is far from it. State lawmakers would have to approve the plan, and taxpayers would foot half the $400 million bill.
That project stands in contrast to the soccer stadium, which wouldn't require a dime of public funds, according to Phoenix Rising executives. The development deal is a private partnership between the team owners and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
"In less than three months we came into an agreement to build a stadium from the ground up," team Governor Berke Bakay said. "It will all be financed by us; zero tax dollars will be used to build that stadium that we’re talking about."
In addition to a permanent playing field, the team also will build a year-round training facility for its players.
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The 15-acre tract of land for the new stadium is on one square-mile of yet-undeveloped real estate bound by Loop 101 on the east, Loop 202 on the south, McClintock Drive on the west and McKellips Road on the north.
It's part of the Salt River Reservation, and a tribal developer, the Solanna Group LLC, said they had long sought to "establish a development for future generations" in this area.
Solanna Group CEO and General Manager David Fordon said Major League Soccer, the country's flagship league, approached the tribe in the early 2000's, and developers had since tracked interest from clubs until they struck a deal with Phoenix Rising.
"It shows the commitment of the community to helping the region and developing sports and great venues and activities," Fordon said, noting that the tribe also hosts spring training for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "To have another professional team that is going to play their full competitive games at another location takes us to a whole new level for the community."
He declined to offer details on the cost of the private partnership for the pop-up, as well as the permanent stadium, saying only that "it’s gonna be similar to other stadiums around the country, at the MLS level, that are arising."
The costs of those stadiums under construction range from $155 million in Orlando, Fla., to Los Angeles' $350 million project, but most also are privately funded, according to team and local media reports.
Fordon also said the Solanna Group will continue to pursue deals to "bring in innovation and modern development" such as high tech and trade to the tribal areas near the Loop 101 and Loop 202 interchange.
During the announcement for the new stadium, Phoenix Rising executives said their overall goal is to become a MLS team. Currently, the team plays in the United Soccer League, the third-tier division.
Bakay said a new stadium will help to achieve that goal by attracting better talent and providing fans with a better experience.
However, Chief Operating Officer Bobby Dulle said the team's new home also will host entertainment events.
"The unique thing with our ownership group is that we have some entertainers on board," he added.
"The contacts between them and what they’re looking to do, there’s an entertainment component," Dulle said.
The team also expressed its intention to develop talent among younger generations, and make the field of the yet-unnamed stadium "a place that all kids aspire to one day play on."
"We also want to use the facility for youth soccer, and reach out to the community, and truly become the mecca for youth soccer tournaments and finals and championships," he said.
The private development deal largely was met with tepid optimism in surrounding communities, which could benefit from large attendance for games and events in their backyards.
Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa all border the future stadium site and their downtown areas are only a few minutes' drive away.
However, Tempe may stand to benefit the most from any potential economic spillover. Attractions like Tempe Marketplace, Tempe Town Lake and Mill Avenue are within walking or biking distance from the site.
"Any opportunities to attract people to our community is wonderful," Mayor Mark Mitchell said. "I played soccer as a kid. Soccer is a growing sport; it's one of the most popular sports in the world. ... It's kind of exciting to see that they're coming to the East Valley. Actually, it's not so much the East Valley, it's more of a central location."
Mesa was more restrained about the deal. Spokesman Steven Wright said they just don't know what possible impact it could have since the stadium would be on tribal land.
"We could have some visitors coming that could possibly stay in the hotel," he said. "But it's kind of hard to predict how much that would be, especially when you have a lot of properties in Scottsdale and Tempe."
One Valley community on the losing end is Peoria, the previous home for then-Arizona United. Before that, the team's inaugural season was at Scottsdale Stadium.
They played the 2016 season at the Peoria Sports Complex, as part of a three-year contract to use those facilities.
But in October, the team notified the city that it wouldn't come back in 2017. As a result, they paid $50,000 in penalties for breaking the contract, according to their signed agreement. The city added that the team had paid in full and had left without outstanding debt.
Peoria officials said they made money from Arizona United's 17 home games, which averaged more than 1,700 attendees per match. But, they had no available data to measure the economic impact on the city and surrounding business.