SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/Facilities

Suns, city put $10M into US Airways Center

The Phoenix Suns and the city of Phoenix are ponying up $10 million for renovations and repairs at US Airways Center.

The city is covering $7 million and the Suns are paying $3 million, said Phoenix Finance Director Jeff DeWitt.

The Suns are paying to replace some seats in the downtown Phoenix arena and to convert some luxury boxes into smaller theater boxes.

DeWitt said the repairs being covered by the city are for wear and tear on the 20-year-old venue, including repairs to elevators and the roof, he said. The city also is making some changes to stay current on Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for public places.

“Most of the improvements are infrastructure upgrades such as boilers and wiring, things that need to be repaired or replaced to keep the arena functioning properly,” said Suns Vice President Tanya Wheeless.

“From a fan experience standpoint, we will be replacing a large number of seats in the upper and lower bowl areas,” she said. “We will also be adding more theater boxes, which have been well-received by the market as businesses look for a high-end, all-inclusive option to entertain business associates.”

The Suns last season replaced eight large suites with 16 four-seat theater-type boxes, which share high-end buffet and bar areas. Wheeless said the new effort will include installation of seven additional theater-style boxes on the suite level of the 18,400-seat arena.

The work is under way. The NBA’s regular season starts Oct. 31.

The city owns the arena and leases it to the Suns, and the team acts as the building’s manager. The venue — one of the older NBA facilities — also is home to the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

The arena opened in 1992 and went through a $70 million upgrade in 2004.

The Suns are coming off their second consecutive NBA season without making the playoffs and are rebuilding with the exits of Steve Nash and Grant Hill.

DeWitt said the Suns have picked up greater shares of past arena construction projects, but the city is doing more this time around on the wear-and-tear improvements.

The Phoenix Coyotes’ 3-year-old ownership saga in Glendale has sparked speculation that US Airways Center might be renovated to better accommodate hockey. When the Coyotes played at the Phoenix arena from 1996 to 2003, some seats had obstructed views. “There are no plans for that,” DeWitt said.

Mike Sunnucks writes for the Phoenix Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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