Amidst questions over whether the club could relocate, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver expressed his commitment Thursday to keeping the team in Phoenix.
The Suns’ long-term facility plans are at the forefront of serious discussion, as the team and the city are floating a proposed $230 million renovation to downtown Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena. Under the proposal, the Suns would finance $80 million of the project’s cost–while committing to build a $25-to-$50 million practice facility elsewhere in the city–with the city covering the remaining $150 million from its Sports Facilities Fund. The Phoenix City Council was to have voted on that proposal Wednesday, but has delayed a decision until January 23 so that the public has more time to review the deal.
The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday that Sarver told a councilmember that the Suns could relocate if the proposed renovation is not approved, with Seattle and Las Vegas being potential destinations. Seeking to silence relocation talks, Sarver took to the Suns’ Twitter feed Thursday to state his commitment to keeping the team in Phoenix. In his remarks, Sarver emphasized that he is committed to working with the city on the Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation plan. More from the Arizona Republic:
In a Twitter post from the Suns’ official team account, the team owner looked into the camera and talked directly the fans about his intentions to keep the franchise in the city after reportedly threatening city council members he’d move the team if it didn’t approve the 15-year, $230-million renovation project for Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“I’m a strong proponent, as evidenced by the term sheet I signed last week, that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world class facility,” Sarver said.
The council was scheduled to vote Wednesday on it during its last meeting of the year, but the vote has postponed it until January 23. There are five scheduled public hearings to discuss the matter, which would give Sarver an opportunity to sell fans on the idea.
Sarver’s full message can be watched below:
A message from Managing Partner, Robert Sarver: pic.twitter.com/f2YLC0woYG
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 13, 2018
Although Sarver’s comments touch on the club’s commitment to Phoenix, there is some urgency behind the proposed renovation. 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.
The proposed renovation plan would extend the Suns’ lease through 2037, with an option to carry the agreement until 2042. Talking Stick Resort Arena is currently the fifth-oldest arena in the NBA, and some venues that predate it–including Minnesota’s Target Center and Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena–recently underwent major renovations.
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