Rick Welts, President and COO of the Phoenix Suns, spent the first hours of the 2009 NBA Jam Session standing by the Phoenix Convention Center entrance, surveying his work. The look of pride on his face could not be missed.
As a Phoenix resident since 1972, I will admit with no shame that this was a moment of pride for me as well. Seeing this event through the lens of how far our sleepy little town has come was not what I was expecting when I went downtown today, but the enormity of the event was undeniable.
When I first started going to Suns games as a kid at the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum the Phoenix, downtown was a mess -- a place you came to work and left right after.
The Phoenix sports community, led by Jerry Colangelo, started and drove the revitalization of our city center with the decision 20 years ago to put the new Suns home smack in the middle of a run-down area. Now with the opening of this beautiful new convention center last month, the ASU downtown campus, and the light rail in December, Jerry's vision has finally arrived.
Rick Welts best expressed this aspect of hosting the All-Star game, "This is really going to give people an opportunity to see the city in a very different way." Phoenix residents and Suns fans will not only enjoy the various Jam Session events but will be visiting this new building for the first time and see their sleepy home town in a whole new light.
The Jam Session is expecting about 7,000 season ticket holders and sponsors on opening night and at least 100,000 people to visit this portion of the All-Star festivities over the next few days. Rick and his small army of staff and volunteers have worked with the City of Phoenix for over two years to prepare for this day.
Things are difficult on Plant Orange these days, but an historic event like this should remind us that the season-to-season struggles and triumphs really can serve a bigger purpose in the growth and life of a city.
Congratulations to Rick, the entire Suns organization and the City of Phoenix for making this happen.