In November of 2014 the Suns announced an extension of their partnership with Verizon and embarked on a journey to transform
US Airways Center Talking Stick Resort Arena (this naming rights transfer just seems really awkward) into a "Technology Wonderland."
The vision of a new "Smart Arena" is materializing with the introduction of new iBeacon technology and mobile payment options. In addition to Verizon Wireless, Levy Restaurants is working with the Suns on improving quality and accessibility of the food and beverages at the arena.
The iBeacon technology will give Suns fans access to embellishments such as free seat upgrades, locker room tours, autographed merchandise and other game-night incentives. This seems even more high tech than the trusty t-shirt cannon. Maybe the denizens of the upper bowl will even be included.
Because we all know that rich guy in row seven needs another free t-shirt.
The iBeacon program is available to fans through the Suns mobile app.
The Suns have also incorporated Apple Pay and Google Wallet as methods of payment at all concession stands across the arena. That's a great plus for people, like me, that aren't in love with carrying cash.
Talking Stick Resort Arena originally opened in 1992, making it the 8th oldest arena in the NBA. The construction cost was $90 million. The league's newest arena is the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic. It was built in 2010 with a construction cost of $480 million.
Even using inflation adjusted numbers the difference would still be approximately $150 million (Talking Stick) to $520 million (Amway). That's a chasmic gap to bridge.
Suns President Jason Rowley acknowledged this in a statement.
"Today's fan experience is more technology-driven than ever before. And, while many new venues have been quick to adopt the latest technology, we are extremely proud to have identified a model that has kept US Airways Center - at 22 years old - on the cutting edge."
It is definitely a challenge to turn an arena built before the first smart phone (Can I get an amen for the IBM Simon) into a "Smart Arena", but the Suns feel they are up to the task. Eventually there will be a new arena conversation, but for now the Suns continue to be on the forefront of enhancing the live game experience for their fans just as they are on the forefront of using new analytics to improve the on court product.