clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is there an arena war on the horizon for the Phoenix Suns?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The noise is starting to grow louder in correspondence to a new arena eventually hitting the streets of downtown Phoenix. The Suns, whose lease on Talking Stick Resort Arena with the city expires in 2022, are already beginning to get the wheels turning on staking claim to a "modern day" arena.

Open since 1992, Talking Stick Resort Arena has swiftly become one of the NBA's oldest homes, lacking all of the gadgets and gizmos ownership seeks out to attract a higher-class demographic and in turn, soak up more lucrative revenues. There are suites and such in the arena as currently constructed, but it is undoubtedly lacking in the arms race against other NBA arenas and the Suns will fall behind (if they haven't already) from a business perspective.

That's the sticky thing about new arena ventures: Teams obviously (and rightfully) want to build these extravagant structures that will attract the highest spenders and assist with the bottom line, but in doing that, won't they be pricing out their most loyal customers?

I was given the privilege of working at Amalie Arena during my tenure at the University of Tampa from 2014-2016. While working there, I was exposed to the effects of an arena transformation on season ticket holders firsthand when ownership elected to compromise a gash of the 200 level in exchange for the construction of premium "Loge seating" that would garner the attention of high-rolling businesses in the Tampa Bay area.

The seats were a huge success for the business of Amalie Arena, but the fans that previously called section 208 home for years were a bit peeved to say the least. The team offered fans that resided within those seats an opportunity to move to a different location throughout the arena, but I am not positive as to how many actually went through with that offering.

Money -- even in sports -- is the be-all, end-all, and even an admirable owner (and community leader) like the Lightning's Jeff Vinik must overlook hurting the morale of a selection of fans with the foresight to cash in. I get it -- and you should too. Sports organizations are a business, and businesses capitalize when their product is hot. Rinse and repeat.

Point of that story is that Robert Sarver and the Suns are likely going to begin handwringing the city of Phoenix to start the process of etching out a blueprint for a new arena in downtown Phoenix, and a section of fans are going to be impacted by it. The arena is going to have to be state of the art, meet the standards of the newly constructed arenas (look at all of the premium seating Amway Center has!), and be without another tenet.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton attempted to get ahead of the narrative through the media by telling Burns and Gambo in April:

"It is obvious that the only thing that makes fiscal and common sense if we are going to build a new arena in this city is that we have a two-team arena," Stanton said.

Yes, it does makes sense for the city of Phoenix to push the Suns and Coyotes to share footing under one roof -- it would require less money to take from taxpayers. On the other hand, it also makes economic sense for Sarver to scoff (He has said he has no problem sharing an arena with the Coyotes, but I am not buying it.), at any notion that the Suns should share a building with the Coyotes on equal footing. The NBA is the more popular league, and the Suns are by far the more popular franchise; it would be difficult to give in to splitting revenues with an inferior organization.

Stanton is also attempting to push the thought that taxpayers are not going to have to deal with any raised taxes in order to support the construction of a new facility. Once again: although that is a great thought, it is unlikely not feasible. Arenas are expensive and require a ton of moving parts to create adequate funding, and leagues/franchises have a history of forcing cities to pony up towards the cost of construction.

The city of Phoenix already has a permanent tourism tax on hotel and motel stays and car rentals in place from when the city funded the creation of the structure formally known as America West Arena. I wouldn't be surprised if that tax percentage was given a marginal increase within a few years to give the city more money to play with.

Other taxable areas that could be of interest:

  • Sin tax on smoking and/or alcohol
  • A player or "jock" tax where players must pay an income tax in every state in which they play a game.
  • Sales tax -- the most commonly known tax, and the most gainful when it comes to raising funds.
A player tax initiative has always made the most sense to me as without an arena in place, the players would not have the proper forum to showcase their talents to both the in-house and over-the-air viewing audience.

The fight for a new arena is still upwards of five years away for the Suns, so this whole conversation may prove to be a bit premature. But like most business deals, there are intricacies that can take years to negotiate. People with money and power tend to be stubborn due to their stature, and cities and sport organizations jockeying for the upper hand in facility funding is perhaps the best representation of that.

Buckle up, folks.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun