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Volume 25 No. 151
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Phoenix Council Set To Vote On $230M Renovation Of Suns Arena

The Phoenix City Council is slated to vote Dec. 12 on a $230M deal with the Suns for renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena. The city of Phoenix will put in $150M and the Suns $80M to revamp the downtown arena. Renovations will start in '19 and be completed in '21. The deal would have the Suns staying at the downtown Phoenix arena through '37, with the potential to extend that lease to '42. City funding would come from existing tourism taxes. City officials said that the deal does not have to go to voters because it is a renovation. The Suns arena opened in '92 and is one of the oldest in the NBA. The arena has a $182M annual direct impact on Phoenix. Without the renovations, the team could notify the city as early as next July that it wants out of its lease and could exit by '22. City officials point out the arena hosts 130 events each year. The Suns' lease payments will go from $1.5M per year in the current deal up to $4M. The deal also creates a fund to handle post-renovation repairs and improvements at TSR Arena. The Suns would also commit to paying for and building a new $25-50M practice facility in Phoenix. The Suns' arena deal does not include the Coyotes, who have been looking to move out of Glendale’s Gila River Arena. The vote also comes before a March run-off in the Phoenix mayor’s race. The front runner in that race, Kate Gallego, has been skeptical of an arena deal (Mike Sunnucks, THE DAILY).

DIG INTO DETAILS: In Phoenix, Jessica Boehm in a front-page piece notes if the council approves the deal, the city will pay for its $150M "share of the renovations through its existing Sports Facilities Fund, which consists of taxes levied primarily on tourists for things like hotel room and car rentals." The revenue from that tax was "originally earmarked for the downtown arena and other tourism-related projects, but the council has discretion to allocate it to other purposes." According to the city, Phoenix' share of the renovation will "cover necessary infrastructure repairs such as plumbing updates, electrical work and roofing repairs." Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams said that the Suns will be "responsible for providing other 'luxury' enhancements, like suite upgrades" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/7).

TIME TO OPINE: Phoenix area dignitaries Devney Preuss, Diane Haller & Ruben Alvarez in an opinion piece wrote of the Suns' arena, "We sometimes lose sight of the building’s importance to our civic life." By using "tourism revenue originally put in place to build the arena, and with financial support from the Suns, we have the opportunity to keep the building well-positioned for future generations." Residents "must support a renovated arena that further fuels downtown’s revitalization, continues to bring our community together and serves as a point of pride for our city and state" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/6).