Suns Shoot Down Relocation Rumors After Arena Vote Delayed
Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley indicated that the team "has never threatened to leave the Valley and is committed to making a deal work in downtown Phoenix" following the Phoenix City Council delaying a vote of a deal with the club to renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena, according to Jessica Boehm of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Rowley said, "The reality is that we have made zero threats of going to any other city. We are focused on this town, this city, downtown Phoenix and getting our deal done." He said that Suns Owner Robert Sarver's goal "with 100 percent certainty ... is to get a deal done in Phoenix." However, Rowley "would not confirm whether the Suns are currently exploring other cities and instead repeated that a deal in Phoenix is the priority" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13). The vote was delayed after the council failed to come up with the needed votes for approval. Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and two council members asked for the delay and the vote be moved to Jan. 23 after it became clear there were not the necessary five votes for approval on the eight-member body. The deal includes a $230M arena renovation and creates a $37.5M future repair fund (Mike Sunnucks, THE DAILY).
WILL PHOENIX OBLIGE? In Phoenix, Kent Somers writes the city should call Sarver's "bluff" after his "reported hints that he could take his basketball and leave town if he doesn’t receive a refurbished arena." In 14 years as owner, Sarver has "supervised the decimation of a once-proud franchise and made millions in the process." What he has "failed to do is produce a product that anyone wants to watch, much less cheer for." The 4-24 Suns "haven’t been to the playoffs" since '10 and "haven’t won more than 24 games" since '14. So for Sarver it "takes mixture of arrogance and ignorance to ask taxpayers to pay" $150M of the estimated $230M cost of "renovating the arena." He has "built no equity with this community or with Suns fans." Hinting about the "possibility of moving the team only hurts his effort, but he apparently lacks the self-awareness to realize that" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13). Also in Phoenix, E.J. Montini writes the city "probably will try to sweeten the terms a little" by the Jan. 23 vote and "try to make the deal seem good for Phoenix and taxpayers and Arizona and so on, but it will be a really hard sell." The reason for that is "simple." Montini: "Robert Sarver is no Jerry Colangelo" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13).
REPLACEMENT OPTIONS: Las Vegas and Seattle were mentioned as potential relocation sites for the Suns, and in Las Vegas, Prince & Bradley note Sarver's reported interest in the city marks the "first time an NBA franchise has used Las Vegas to get a sweeter deal" on an arena in their own city. However, "unlike Seattle, Las Vegas has an NBA-ready venue: T-Mobile Arena." There is a "winding road until the NBA hits Las Vegas" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/13). In Seattle, Alex Iniguez writes it is "certainly possible this is nothing more than a political game and Sarver doesn’t actually plan to move the Suns" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/13).