With business news hitting the wire that America Airlines, who is a merged partner with U.S. Airways, will not renew the naming rights for the downtown Phoenix arena it makes one ponder a few things.
First, who is going to get to name this arena in a Top 5 populated city with one of the more well-known NBA teams as the landlords? Over the past few years there have been new arena names such as Sleepy Train (Sacramento), Barclays Center (Brooklyn), Moda Center (Portland), and the Smoothie King Center (New Orleans), all of which leave much to be desired. The Suns will be in that list soon and are looking to land something closer to the Barclays Center than Smoothie King Center.
Second, how will the legacy of American Airlines (as well as U.S. Airways Center) be remembered for Arizona Sports?
Do you remember the last time the Phoenix Suns were in their sports Championship Game? It was some time ago and despite the two appearances the Suns had in the NBA Finals being memorable ones, it has now been 21 years since the last time they were there.
That is a long time in sports years.
While the Suns have been one of the better models of consistency for winning and stability in their history getting over the hump has been difficult.
You need to hit the right cords with having a Charles Barkley (HOF), Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers, and Richard Dumas on the same team at the same time. You need a terrific head coach like Paul Westphal leading the charge and a front office filled with Colangelo's (Jerry and Bryan) pulling the right strings. That 1992-1993 Suns team was tremendous winning 62 games and ending just two victories shy of a championship banner.
The very next year the state of Arizona crowned their first champion.
While the Arizona Rattlers are not spoken of in the same breath as the boisterous, more financially driven teams from the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL they are a team in the state of Arizona that won a Championship. They did so in 1994 and since then have made eight more trips to the Arena Bowl Championship Game. They are 5-4 in the Championship with banners galore hanging from the rafters.
They have become the unofficial Kings of the U.S. Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) especially as of late winning three championships in a row from 2012-2014.
Recent greatness has also struck with the unofficial Queens of U.S. Airways Center, the Phoenix Mercury, winning two championships since 2007 and zeroing in on a third this year. The niche sports have taken over the downtown arena that has been the home of the Phoenix Suns for over 22 years.
Of course in the NBA there is more of a competitive disadvantage with 14 other teams in the conference alone, and, in a dynasty league; it is extremely difficult to grab that brass ring.
For the Mercury, they are in a dynasty league as well, but have the pieces to be that dynasty team. The Houston Comets owned the league for 4-5 years, then the Los Angeles Sparks for 3-4 years, then the Detroit Shock, then the Mercury, then the Minnesota Lynx, and now... Back to the Mercury.
The Arena Football League has seen four dynasties from the Detroit Drive, to the the Tampa Bay Storm, to the San Jose SaberCats, and now the Rattlers.
With the Rattlers and the Mercury as the unofficial Kings & Queens respectively of U.S. Airways Center they have become the dynasties of their sports. The Suns are a step behind these niche sports that drawn a smaller, but rabid fan base, that supports them to the fullest. These teams have the benefit of playing in a great arena because of the Suns and are taking full advantage of it with banner-after-banner.
The passion and fans are here, waiting for the Suns to become their sports dynasty team. When will that happen for them?