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Catching up with Phoenix Suns arena renovations

The Phoenix Suns continue work on Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations, with some big goals for the 2020-2021 NBA season: a more open environment, with plenty of places to socialize and share a game experience.

The $230-million Project 201: PHX Reimagined project is designed to convert a small and dated NBA arena into a state-of-the-art venue for Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury fans. While the project includes a lot of behind-the-scenes infrastructure upgrades that are necessary but not glamorous—HVAC overhauls are not sexy—there’s still plenty of flash involved as the Suns upgrade the fan experience on every level, between lighting and WiFi enhancements to new seating and lounge options. 

To say that the new Talking Stick Resort Arena is set up for barhopping without ever leaving the doors of the arena is an understatement. The tone is set when fans enter the front gates and are presented with the Pavilion (shown above), billed by the Suns as the biggest sports bar in Arizona. Featuring more than 7,000 square feet of high-def videoscreens, the Pavilion features an expanded opening into the arena bowl, taking down part of the barrier between bowl and concourse. Indeed, this removal of barrier between bowl and concourse is one of the prime themes behind the renovation.

The barriers were further removed with the addition of two corner bars on northwest and northeast sides of the arena (shown above, in the context of the bowl). As with the Pavilion, these two corner bars are open to all ticketholders. Yes, in this age of COVID-19, such mass gathering spots may be a little jarring, but we will not be on lockdown forever, and large spaces like this are becoming common in the venue world: new venues will sport plenty of similar spaces, and retrofitted venues add them. 

Also open to all, a new north lounge at Talking Stick Resort Arena sports a Southwest country-western theme and is designed for live music—yet another reason for fans to head out early to the arena. 

These are the spots open to all ticketholders, but there are plenty of new clubs and spaces aimed toward a more exclusive clientele. At the edge of the North Lounge, a new high-end area offers leather-cushioned with in-seat beverage service, complete with complimentary house beer and wine, and access to the North Lounge food offerings throughout the game. 

A VVIP luxury club is limited to those holding courtside seating, offering a high-end experience that begins with valet parking and includes gourmet dining and member-only events.

Once inside the arena, fans will enjoy a flashier atmosphere. The new center-hung scoreboard features 3,100 square feet of LED space—six times larger than the previous videoboard. In addition, two new LED ribbon boards, stretching more than 1,700 feet in total, will be part of the new fan experience.

That fan experience will be presented in comfort, as the seating bowl features more than 17,000 new cushioned seats.

The renovation is performed in two stages: some changes will be unveiled for the 2020-21 NBA season, and the second phase set for the 2021-22 season.

Renderings courtesy Phoenix Suns. HOK is architect of record on the project, with Okland Construction as the general contractor.

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