Following last week’s city council vote, Phoenix and the Phoenix Suns are planning to move forward with a Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation project. While some details of the plan remain unknown, the renovation should yield major structural improvements and modernize certain fan amenities.
At its January 23 meeting, the Phoenix City Council voted by a 6-2 margin to approve the $230 million renovation. Aspects of the plan—primarily a $150 million contribution from the city’s Sports Facilities Fund, which receives revenue from taxes on car rentals and hotel stays—have been met with criticism, and an effort to force a referendum on the issue is already underway.
Whether that push materializes remains to be seen, but the project as envisioned could solve long-term questions surrounding the status of the Suns. The team’s original lease for Talking Stick Resort Arena allowed it to opt out in 2022 if the venue was deemed obsolete. With the renovation plan, the Suns would extend their stay until 2037, while a five-year option could carry the agreement until 2042.
Some of the more expensive improvements in the Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation are infrastructure related, addressing areas of the facility that might not be visible to fans but are nonetheless crucial to the venue’s lifespan. LED lighting is expected to be part of those improvements, along with major plumbing and electrical upgrades.
There are more visible aspects of the renovations in the works, however. Concourses will be improved and widened, while technology upgrades—including new video displays—are set to be completed, along with seating bowl improvements, installation of new signage, and upgrades to clubs and suites. Changes are also expected to Talking Stick Resort Arena’s exterior, with improvements aimed at enhancing the building’s streetscape appeal and increasing energy efficiency.
On the Suns’ end, the renovation comes with a few commitments. The training facility within Talking Stick Resort Arena is set to be eliminated to create more space in the venue and replaced with an off-site complex that will be funded by the Suns. That project is currently expected to cost $25 million-$50 million. Additionally, as part of a series of commitments that were added to the agreement before it received council approval, the Suns will spend $10 million on community programs and preschool programs and pay $1.5 million extra in rent — money the city is earmarking for homeless programs. The team is also committed to pay for overruns in the project.
Should the renovation move forward as planned, it will settle one sports facility situation in a market where there are plenty of questions. MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks are dissatisfied with the condition of Chase Field and could pursue a new ballpark or renovation in the near future, while the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are still sorting out an uncertain arena situation. Renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena would seemingly shut the door on a shared facility arrangement with the Suns, as the venue proved to be ill-fitted for hockey when the Coyotes played there from 1996-2003 and the upcoming renovations will not change that.
The Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation project is scheduled to start this year and be completed in 2021.
Image courtesy Visit Phoenix.
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