Storyline: Phoenix Suns Arena

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Nine days after the Phoenix City Council approved a controversial deal to renovate the Phoenix Suns home arena, Suns owner Robert Sarver donated $50,000 to a campaign PAC supporting a councilwoman who cast a crucial vote. That donation to Councilwoman Vania Guevara last month came after she flipped her “no” vote to a “yes,” with Sarver’s pledge to spend $2.6 million on Head Start programs in her district.

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Sarver followed up his donation to Guevara with a $100,000 contribution to a firefighter PAC backing the mayoral campaign of Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, also a supporter of the arena deal. Sarver is the largest known individual financial supporter of Valenzuela’s campaign. The Suns owner provided this statement to 12 News about his campaign spending: “I care deeply about the future of the city of Phoenix. I am proud to support candidates who have the best interests of the city at heart, particularly those who are committed to job creation and improving education. I gave openly, not behind a veil, and I look forward to the exciting days ahead for our community.”

The council added a number of tweaks to the deal, including: Requiring the Suns to spend $10 million on community benefits, including at least $2.6 million to the city’s preschool program. The city will hire someone to oversee Phoenix’s expenditures on the renovations. The city will commit the $1.5 million rent increase from the Suns to homeless issues. 80 percent of any additional revenues generated by the city from the arena will go toward city public safety costs.

In the video, Sarver stated the following: Hello Suns fans. I hope you take a minute to listen to an important message that I want to share with you. First and foremost, the Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix. I am 100 percent committed and have been for the last four years to find a solution to keep them in downtown Phoenix, where they belong. I am a strong proponent, as evidenced by the term sheet that I signed last week, that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility.

Splash one arena deal. Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and Councilwomen Laura Pastor and Debra Stark have asked for a postponement of this afternoon’s City Council vote on whether to spend $150 million upgrading the Suns arena. This, because the deal will go down in defeat if it’s put to a vote. Whether they get a continuance or not could mark the beginning of a showdown between the city and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is telling some council members that he will take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas.

The Phoenix City Council is expected to delay a vote on a $230 million Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation following backlash from the community. The council was slated to vote on the deal, which could keep the Phoenix Suns in downtown until 2042, Wednesday afternoon. But the council will now likely vote to delay the final vote until Jan. 23, allowing Mayor Thelda Williams to host two additional community meetings to solicit feedback before the council decision, according to city sources. The Suns have been asking the city for a new or significantly updated arena for years, but have been unable to get the council to publicly consider a deal until now.

So hearing about the proposed renovation project for the Suns’ arena sounds good to him even though the city will have to shell out $150 million upfront. “Everything costs money, bro,” said Govan, 43, before Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. “It’s not like we expect to go out and get it done for free. Is it the best spent taxpayers money? Not really, but I’m all about the Suns. I’ve been waiting for a winning season for a long time. Whatever helps them win, I’m all about it.” The City Council will vote on the proposal Wednesday in its 2:30 p.m. meeting, the council’s last session of the year. A week ago, Suns team owner Robert Sarver met one-on-one with the council members.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has been looking to replace or renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena for several years. But that talk exploded into action last month, after Kate Gallego crushed the competition in the four-way Phoenix mayor election. Within days, Gallego, the odds-on favorite to win the March runoff, announced that “spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a huge renovation for the Phoenix Suns is not a priority for me.” Thus, the urgency to get this deal done Wednesday, during the City Council’s last meeting of the year.

The plan was unveiled on Thursday after Sarver met one-on-one with every council member and the votes already were lined up to pass it. If those votes don’t waver – and there are indications that some council members are getting cold feet – the deal calls for the city to spend $150 million on upgrades and the Suns to kick in another $80 million. (With interest, the city’s tab would be $233 million to $247 million over 17 to 18 years.) The city also would put another $25 million into a fund for future upgrades over the next 15 years, with the Suns kicking in half that amount.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is expected to announce Tuesday that he supports pursuing a deal to build a new downtown sports and entertainment arena that would be shared by the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Coyotes. According to sources who have reviewed the mayor’s planned remarks, Stanton will outline his vision for building a new taxpayer-funded arena during his fifth State of the City speech. The mayor is scheduled to speak before a crowd of hundreds of business and political leaders at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel in downtown about noon.
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