It is always about the money.
The clock is ticking in Phoenix as the National Basketball Association’s local franchise owner Robert Sarver attempts to get major subsidies from the mayor and city council to renovate the city owned arena where his Suns basketball franchise operates. There is a deadline because Phoenix will have a new mayor in March as Thelda Williams who supports the renovations and the subsidies is leaving office. The planned expenditure, when debt payments are included could add up to a quarter of a billion dollars. There are public hearings that will take place before a January 23 city council vote which will either approve or kill the proposal. The city council punted on a decision in December. Phoenix residents may like an NBA team in town but a December poll results claimed that two thirds of Phoenix dwellers are opposed to using public money to bring the 1990s building to a 2020s state of the art NBA standards arena. Phoenix residents may also have to deal with Major League Baseball’s Phoenix-based Diamondbacks owners who may want a taxpayers funded new stadium which would replace a building that opened in 1998.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to see Phoenix use municipal dollars to help out Sarver and his business. “I’ve made clear as well, as commissioner, it’d be a failure on my part if a team ended up moving out of a market. I will say, in Phoenix, it’s the oldest arena now in the NBA that hasn’t been either completely rebuilt or renovated. There’s no question the arena needs a substantial investment.” Silver, of course, is first and foremost a lobbyist in this situation and although Sarver claimed he would not move if the Phoenix city council said no to spending a quarter of a billion dollars on the renovation, other cities may want his business. It’s the way of sports today.