Attorneys representing the team and the city will meet behind closed doors this evening while the Suns take on the Spurs to discuss the future of the Suns’ home.
For the past 26 years, Talking Stick Resort Arena has been the Suns’ home. It seems as if all parties involved want the team to stay in Phoenix, but the sticking point thus far has been Phoenix’s willingness to use taxpayer money to fund the upgrades the arena clearly needs.
A new mayor could be the difference between the Suns finally getting that money or the chance going away completely. The Nov. 6 election brought no official winner in the mayor’s race, meaning the race between Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela will head to a March runoff election, where one candidate must get over 50 percent of the vote to be deemed the winner.
Gallego led by 19 points on election night, meaning she will likely be the frontrunner come March. However, she has so far seemed unwilling in public comments to fork over city money to fund additions to TSR Arena.
“We have a number of competing priorities and tough choices we have to make if we’re going to fuel our growth and build on recent progress in Phoenix. While I intend to be a partner with the Suns on the many great things they do for the city, it is not in Phoenix’s best interest to invest in an arena,” she said in a statement to the Arizona Republic last November.
On the other side, Suns CEO Jason Rowley, who runs the team’s business operations, told the Phoenix Business Journal last month, “There are limitations to what you can do in terms of modernization, but we do what we can.” Rowley also highlighted what he called “significant differences” between the Suns’ home and new arenas in Milwaukee and Atlanta, two similarly small markets. The Kings also recently got a new building in Sacramento after battles with the city and the NBA for years over potential relocation.
The Suns’ 40-year lease on TSR Arena gives it the option to leave after 30 years, which means the franchise could move out as soon as 2022.
These new meetings, which will also include city officials like the Phoenix city manager and economic development director, may represent something of a last-ditch effort before negotiations become more difficult if and when Gallego becomes mayor.
City and team last met Nov. 6, the night of the election, according to the Arizona Republic.
If no agreement is reached, the Suns will have to seriously consider raising money elsewhere or moving to a new municipality that would be willing to support them with public money.
There are three seasons after this one until the 2022 opt-out for the TSR Arena lease, but the timeline feels very much accelerated with the change in leadership in Phoenix.