The Phoenix City Council met in a closed-door executive session Wednesday to discuss the future of Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns.
The city owns the arena, which the Suns have called home since the 1992-93 season. But in July of last year, Suns owner Robert Sarver said the team either needs a new arena, or renovations to the existing one.
"We have no choice but to do one of those two because as you know, our arena’s becoming outdated," he said, noting TSR Arena is one of the NBA's oldest active venues. "We have to have an NBA-quality facility. I know that. I think the City of Phoenix knows that. So, we have no choice but to get one of those two things done."
Council members, as well as the Suns, declined to comment on the details of Wednesday's session.
Daniel Barrett and Kevin Kelley attended the session. Both men represented the owners of the two newest publicly-owned arenas in the NBA, the Phoenix Business Journal reported.
Kate Gallego, one of the candidates in the Phoenix mayoral race, is wary about spending a significant amount of money on arena renovations. Gallego will face Daniel Valenzuela in a runoff election in March.
"The city of Phoenix has many pressing needs in areas such as public safety and fighting homelessness. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a huge renovation for the Phoenix Suns is not a priority for me," Gallego said in a statement. "The city has limited resources and needs to make smart decisions. As Phoenix mayor, I'd welcome the conversation to keep the Phoenix Suns at home, but we need to prioritize putting Phoenicians first."
Valenzuela said he is optimistic that the Suns and the city can come to an agreement that will benefit the city's business owners and taxpayers.
“We cannot walk away from discussions and just abandon a multi-million-dollar city-owned facility, leave it to rot and kill thousands of jobs and the positive economic impact it has on both our city and the region," he said in a statement. "Many of our downtown Phoenix businesses, including small, family-owned businesses, will be harmed if we lose one of our critical anchors.
"For too long, taxpayers have been expected to foot practically the entire bill for sports venues. We need to bring stakeholders together, which these discussions are doing, in order to develop the new model I envision that will take the burden off our taxpayers. So, I am pleased these discussions are underway and I intend to be a part of those discussions as Mayor.”
The Suns' arena contract with the city runs through 2032, but the team could opt out as soon as 2022 if certain criteria are met, Phoenix Communications Director Julie Watters confirmed.
“The city considers the arena an important asset to the downtown. Since 1992 the city of Phoenix has been a proud partner of the Suns and we value that relationship," Watters said in a statement.
Last year, Sarver said staying in downtown Phoenix is his No. 1 preference.
"I’m looking at different options here within the Valley. First priority is downtown Phoenix, but if that’s not something the city wants to do, I’ve got to look somewhere else," he said. "We’re getting to that point where we’ve got to start getting something done."
The Suns might not be the only team looking to leave downtown Phoenix in the next few years. In May, the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a restructured contract with the Maricopa County Stadium District Board of Directors that would allow them to leave downtown Phoenix as soon as 2022, provided a new stadium is built within Maricopa County.