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Talking Stick Resort Arena Renovation Vote Delayed

A vote on a proposed agreement between the Phoenix Suns and the city for Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations has been delayed, with a decision now expected next month. 

The Phoenix City Council was to have voted Wednesday on a proposed $230 million renovation to Talking Stick Resort Arena, the downtown Phoenix home of the Suns that opened in 1992. Under the proposed financing plan, the city would contribute $150 million from its Sports Facilities Fund with the Suns paying the remaining $80 million. Additionally, the two sides would make annual contributions to a repairs and replacement fund for 12 1/2 years, including $2 million yearly from the city and $1 million annually from the Suns. The Suns would commit to remaining at the facility through 2037, with an option to extend that stay until 2042, while financing a new $25-to-$50 million practice facility elsewhere in the city. Should the Suns depart before 2037, they would be subject to up to a $200 million penalty.

A decision will wait, however, as the city council is pushing its Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation vote back to January 23 amid concerns that the public has not been adequately informed of the recently released deal. Community meetings on the proposal will be held between now and the new vote date, with the Suns indicating that they will work in the process to answer any questions from city officials and members of the public. More from the Arizona Republic:

The council also committed to release documents about the financial details of the deal and host five community meetings across the city to solicit feedback before the final vote.

In a statement, Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley said the team was aware of the request to delay the vote and will answer any questions the community has.

“We very much look forward to publicly discussing the many ways in which Talking Stick Resort Arena benefits downtown Phoenix and our community at large, and answering any questions the council and their constituents have about the arena and the proposed renovation,” he said. “Our priority remains being in downtown Phoenix long-term, and we’re excited about the opportunity that lies ahead.”

The Suns have been indicating for some time that they want to upgrade Talking Stick Resort Arena. Both the team and the city are working on an agreement with knowledge of a clause that allows the Suns to opt out of the deal in 2022 if the venue is deemed obsolete. The original lease allows the Suns to trigger the process of determining the venue’s condition as early as July 1, 2019, unless the team and the city strike an agreement before that date. Furthermore, a March runoff election will determine a new mayor for the city, with the outcome potentially affecting any chances of striking an agreement down the road.

It also seems that, in the very least, the Suns have indicated to city officials that cities outside of Phoenix are interested in landing an NBA squad. That includes Seattle and Las Vegas, two western cities with NBA ambitions that might be able to produce a viable arena plan. More from the Arizona Republic:

Commence the showdown between the city and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who recently called a council member and said he would take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the arena deal doesn’t go through.

“Sarver’s talking about moving,” the council member told me. “He basically told me the team will go (if they don’t get a renovated arena). Vegas and Seattle were the two he talked about.”

City Manger Ed Zuercher confirmed that Suns officials have mentioned the possibility of leaving.

“I don’t consider it a threat,” he said. “They’ve talked about what their options are. Robert has never has threatened me. He’s mentioned that there are other cities that are looking for NBA teams.”

Despite interest from cities such as Seattle and Las Vegas, the NBA has not announced plans to expand and relocation options have appeared very limited to this point. Whether the Suns ultimately become a viable relocation candidate remains to be seen, but the opt-out clause in their lease could allow them to explore some options if the proposed Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations are voted down by the city council. Talking Stick Resort Arena is currently the fifth-oldest arena in the NBA. Some of the venues that predate it–including Minnesota’s Target Center and Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena–recently underwent major renovations.

Image courtesy Visit Phoenix. 

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