Fort McDowell was established on the upper Salt River in 1865 allowing for new towns to be built further down the Salt River. US military service members and Hispanic workers were hired to grow food and animal feed to supply the fort, and less than a year later, had set up small camps near the river that were the first permanent communities in the Valley after the fall of the Hohokam. (Phoenix was settled shortly afterward, by 1867-68.) The two settlements were 'Hayden's Ferry', named after a ferry service operated by the family of the future Arizona US Senator Carl Hayden, and 'San Pablo', and were located west and east of Hayden Butte respectively. The ferry became the key river crossing in the area. The Tempe Irrigating Canal Company was soon established to provide water for alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, and cotton.
In 1885, Arizona Territorial Legislature chose Tempe for the site of the Territorial Normal School, which became Arizona Normal School, Arizona State Teachers College, Arizona State College and finally Arizona State University.
The Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad, built in 1887, crossed the Salt River at Tempe, linking the town to the nation's growing transportation system. The Tempe Land and Improvement Company was formed to sell lots in the booming town. Tempe became an economic hub for the surrounding agricultural area. The city incorporated in 1894.
The completion of Roosevelt Dam in 1911 guaranteed enough water to meet the growing needs of Valley farmers. On his way to dedicate the dam, former President Theodore Roosevelt applauded the accomplishments of the people of central Arizona and predicted that their towns would be prosperous cities in the future. Less than a year later, Arizona was admitted as the 48th state, and the Salt River Valley continued to develop.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Tempe has not only expanded as a suburb of Phoenix but also an important center of education and commerce in its own right.
Tempe is the headquarters and executive office of US Airways (formerly America West Airlines) and home to the largest campus of Arizona State University. It was the longtime host of the Fiesta Bowl, although the BCS game moved to University of Phoenix Stadium, located in Glendale, in 2007.
On New Year's Eve, the city hosts the Insight Fiesta Bowl Block Party, one of the nation's largest New Year's Eve parties. The event typically has a national band heading a concert, along with several other local and national bands. Gammage Auditorium was also the site of one of the three Presidential debates in 2004 and Super Bowl XXX. Additionally, it is the spring training host city of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
One of Arizona's largest shopping malls, Arizona Mills, sits near the border with the town of Guadalupe. The city also serves as the first Arizona IKEA branch location, also near the southern boundary.
Mill avenue, located just west of Hayden Butte, is a shopping and entertainment area in the city popular with pedestrians and students. With the completion of Tempe Town Lake, commercial and high-rise development along the reservoir quickly transformed the cityscape of Mill Avenue and the skyline of downtown Tempe.
Most of Tempe is within the Tempe Elementary School District and the Tempe Union High School District; however, other portions are served by the Kyrene School District (K-8), Scottsdale Unified School District (K-12), and Mesa Public Schools (K-12).
As of the 2006 census estimate, there were 169,712 people, 63,602 households, and 33,645 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,959.4 people per square mile (1,528.8/km²). There were 67,068 housing units at an average density of 1,674.1/sq mi (646.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.51% White, 3.66% Black or African American, 2.01% Native American, 4.75% Asian, 0.29% Pacific Islander, 8.49% from other races, and 3.30% from two or more races. 17.95% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 63,602 households out of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.1% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 21.3% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 7.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 106.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 107.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,361, and the median income for a family was $55,237. Males had a median income of $36,406 versus $28,605 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,406. About 7.5% of families and 14.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.6% of those under age 18 and 5.1% of those age 65 or over. The reason for the high population poverty line is because there are a very large number of university students that live in Tempe, and does not reflect the overall income of the area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the landlocked city has a total area of 40.2 square miles (104.1 km²). The city of Tempe is bordered by Mesa to the east, Scottsdale to the north, Phoenix and Guadalupe to the west, and Chandler to the south. 40.1 square miles (103.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it is water. The total area is 0.32% water including Tempe Town Lake.
Tempe is generally flat, except for Hayden Butte (generally known as A-Mountain for Arizona State University's "A" logo located on its south face), located next to Sun Devil Stadium, Twin Buttes and Bell Butte on the western edge of Tempe, and Papago Park northwest of Tempe, inside Phoenix. Elevation ranges from 1140 feet at Tempe Town Lake to 1495 feet atop Hayden Butte.
There are currently no major league professional team sports in Tempe. However, from 1987 to 2006, Sun Devil Stadium hosted the Arizona Cardinals. They have since moved to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Many residents follow the teams in nearby Phoenix and Glendale. (For more information, read the sports section on the Phoenix page)
The Arizona State University Sun Devils compete in football, basketball, baseball, as well as a number of other sports in the Pac-10 Conference of the NCAA. The Sun Devils football team plays their games at Sun Devil Stadium, which had hosted the annual Fiesta Bowl, until the 2007 game moved to the new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Their nearest rival is the University of Arizona Wildcats, in Tucson. The two teams compete in the "Duel in the Desert" for control of the Territorial Cup.
The city also hosts the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium (since 2006).
Tempe is the most densely-populated city in the state and serves as a crossroads for the area's largest communities.
Freeways make up the major transportation system for the Valley. Included in the system surrounding Tempe are Interstate 10 near the western edge as it traverses the Broadway Curve, Loop 202 crossing the northern side, Loop 101 following the eastern border, and U.S. Route 60 running east-west through the geographic center of the city.
Valley Metro operates bus routes and is building the METRO Light rail system that will serve Downtown Tempe and Arizona State University, providing service to Phoenix and Mesa when the initial segment opens in December 2008. The City of Tempe operates a free neighborhood circulator service called Orbit involing five free shuttle routes near Arizona State University that operate on a regular basis seven days a week. Three other FLASH (Free Local Area SHuttle) circulate in northern Tempe around the University. Tempe residents and commuters make extensive use of public transit and service is offered on a more frequent basis than elsewhere in the state.
The city has had 27 mayors since 1894.
Tempe has had a Sister City with Skopje, Macedonia, since 1971. The newest sister city is Carlow, Ireland, in 1998. Tempe has been voted "Best Overall Sister City Program" in 1998 and 2004. Each year, 28 candidates are given the opportunity to travel to one of the sister cities. Candidates undergo a rigorous interview process to travel to one of these countries completely free of charge. The Tempe Sister Cities Corporation is one made up of volunteers, and is one of the few Sister Cities programs in the United States that pays the full travel expenses for the trip.