Suns owner threatens move to Seattle or Las Vegas if $230M arena deal isn't passed

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor
The city is considering renovations for Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. (Getty)
The city is considering renovations for Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. (Getty)

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is reportedly telling Phoenix City Council members he’ll take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if they don’t approve a $230 million upgrade package on the Suns arena.

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The Phoenix City Council was scheduled to vote on the Talking Stick Resort Arena renovations Wednesday afternoon. It will instead delay it until Jan. 23. It allows for two additional community meetings to get feedback, which so far has not been good.

Fox 10’s Jude LaCave confirmed Wednesday night, after the vote was formally delayed, that one political figure suggested to him that Sarver threatened to leave. The Suns CEO Jason Rowley denied the team would leave, telling the station:

“The reality is that we’ve made zero threats about going to any other city.”

What is the Suns’ arena deal?

The deal would keep the Suns in downtown Phoenix until 2037 with an option to extend it to 2042. It can currently exit its deal in 2022.

The city is on the hook for $150 million as well as a total $25 million over 12½ years into a “new renewal and replacement fund” for future renovations.

With interest, the estimated cost is $233 million to $247 million over 17 to 20 years.

The Suns would pay $80 million upfront and $12.5 million over 12½ years ($1 million per year) into the new fund. The team would also pay rent to the city and build a new practice facility somewhere in Phoenix. If the team leaves before the lease is up, it would pay $200 million.

The vote was reportedly delayed because it would have failed if it was on the agenda Wednesday, according to azcentral.com. The city released the details less than a week ago and Sarver met with council members one-on-one last week to get the votes he needed.

Why is Sarver threatening to leave?

Sarver has been trying to get a new deal for years. Roberts, an azcentral.com columnist, speculates the rush on this particular deal is because the likely incoming mayor (who will still go to a runoff in March) said spending millions on the arena isn’t one of her priorities.

A large portion of Phoenix voters reportedly oppose the plan. The Suns and Phoenix taxpayers split the $100 million price tag on a new arena in the early 1990s. The money for a new one would come from a fund that receives income from tourism taxes. According to azcentral.com, the city said its share of the costs would be for “necessary infrastructure repairs such as plumbing updates, electrical work and roofing repairs.”

The Suns would provide “luxury” enhancements. The franchise is valued at $1.28 billion.

Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley said in a statement to azcentral.com he was looking forward to the public discussion and answering any questions from the council and constituents.

“Our priority remains being in downtown Phoenix long-term, and we’re excited about the opportunity that lies ahead.”

The county has a history of battles regarding professional sports arenas. The Arizona Coyotes are still having arena drama over their place in Glendale.

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