Talking Stick Resort Arena, current home of the NBA’s Suns, opened in 1992 and is certainly showing its age when it comes to fan amenities and upscale offerings. While the downtown location is good (close to light rail and plenty of parking), the city is certainly looking at a replacement, issuing an RFP for research and poised to award a $190,000 contract to Barrett Sports Group LLC to research options for a new Phoenix arena. Barrett is certainly familiar with the greater Phoenix market: the NHL used the firm to help guide the Arizona Coyotes through bankruptcy, and Arizona State used Barrett when planning expansion of and development around Sun Devil Stadium. Barrett Sports Group beat out some big names for the contract, including CSL International and Icon Venue Group.
Barrett Sports Group is charged with researching a new Phoenix arena (perhaps at the current Phoenix Convention Center site) as well as looking at renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena. A multiuse arena that would also support the Coyotes and ASU hockey team will certainly be part of the discussion as well.
The Phoenix City Council is expected to approve the contract at its Feb. 3 meeting.
But Phoenix isn’t the only entity looking at a new arena. One intriguing scenario has the Arizona State Fairgrounds funding a new or renovated Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the Suns. The Coliseum isn’t big enough for NBA ball, but bringing back the potato-chip design to the sport would certainly be hailed by many sentimental Phoenicians.
And, of course, we have the Coyotes on the prowl for a new facility after Glendale decided to seek a new manager for Gila River Arena. The original deal struck between Glendale and the Coyotes to manage Gila River Arena was widely criticized as being far too one-sided in favor of the NHL team, and Glendale officials decided to bring in an outside management firm, leading the Coyotes to sign a two-year lease and begin the search for a new arena. The Coyotes could end up sharing a new facility at Arizona State in Tempe or at the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale — or sharing a new arena with the Suns in downtown Phoenix. Despite what some other media outlets are reporting, we’re told any arena decisions are unlikely to happen in the next few months — unless Arizona State comes up with an arena funding plan that the Coyotes just can’t ignore.