According to AZ Central’s Laurie Roberts, Suns majority owner Robert Sarver is threatening to take the Suns out of Arizona if Talking Stick Resort Arena’s approximately $230 million renovation plan doesn’t get approved.
Sarver reportedly brought up the idea of moving to big markets currently without NBA teams, Seattle and Las Vegas. Roberts’ story notes Councilman Michael Nowakowski was noncommittal earlier this week about approving the Suns’ plan. City officials hope to postpone the vote until next month to gain public support and further iron out the details of arena renovations.
The Suns and the city are working quickly to get a deal in place by March, when a possble new mayor would be in place. Kate Gallego, who has been outspoken against public funding for a new arena, is considered the front-runner in the spring runoff election. If she gets more than 50 percent of the vote, she would take over negotiations and likely end them.
Nowakowski released a statement Tuesday night, as reported by Roberts:
“I first want to say that I am proud and honored to have Talking Stick Resort Arena and the Phoenix Suns in District 7. The arena and the Suns play a vital role to our downtown economy,” he wrote, sounding like a guy who is going to vote yes.
“While I have always supported efforts to strengthen and maintain our economy, I must hold true to the value I place on making sure people are informed and heard,” he continued, sounding like a guy who is going to vote no.
“I want to make sure the community understands the economic impact of the arena, the responsibility the city has to the arena owner, what renovations are needed to continue operating the arena and the source of the funds that would be used for renovations.”
The councilman, who represents southwest Phoenix and parts of Laveen, is considered the swing vote here.
Council on Wednesday postponed the vote until January for residents to “learn more about the proposal and provide input.”
If the renovation plan isn’t passed, this seems to be leading into a full-on showdown between Sarver and the city. According to a source familiar with the team’s plans, Phoenix would consider moving out of Talking Stick Resort Arena to the Scottsdale area near Talking Stick Resort casino if it can’t find a resolution for the current building.
The Suns can also exercise an obsolescence clause after this season to ramp up the pressure even further on the city’s officials. It means that if TSRA no longer serves its primary purpose and NBA representatives find the current arena is in need of renovations for the Suns to stay, the team could possibly escape its lease and allowing them to listen to outside offers from in and out of state to find its next home more quickly.
With Suns’ 4-24 start and fan interest seemingly nosediving as they head for their ninth-straight season without a playoff appearance, this situation between team and city becomes even more important for the prosperity of the Suns in Arizona.
The $230 million renovation plan would include restoring Talking Stick Resort Arena through October 2021, scheduled to be finished prior the start of the 2021-22 season. It also includes a new practice facility for the Suns in a different part of downtown Phoenix, which they would shell out $80 million themselves to accommodate.