By Jessica Boehm for The Arizona Republic
Almost everything about a deal to renovate the Phoenix Suns‘ taxpayer-funded downtown arena remains a mystery, but one thing has become increasing clear – it’s quickly losing the support it needs from the Phoenix City Council.
Three of the city’s nine voting members have publicly stated their opposition to a major arena renovation and another said he won’t support it unless the city and team overhaul the funding model to take the burden off taxpayers.
Mayor Greg Stanton is the only one to publicly say he will support the arena upgrades, subject to some conditions — and he could leave office at any time to run for Congress. The remaining four council members have not confirmed their views on a potential renovation.
The Suns need five “yes” votes to pass a deal.
The team and the city have kept critical details about arena negotiations behind closed doors: How much would it cost to renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena? How much would the city pay? What would the team contribute?
Chatter around City Hall puts the price tag somewhere around $400M. And some media accounts, which have relied on anonymous sources, reported the council may even kill the deal before it makes it to a public vote because of disagreement over who will pay what.
The City Council has met in executive-session meetings numerous times during the past several months to discuss the state of negotiations with the city’s lawyers, a consultant and outside attorneys.
When asked for an update on these discussions, Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters said, “These meetings are regularly scheduled legal meetings done in a confidential setting, recognized by state law, and the details/outcome are confidential.”
When asked when discussions would occur in a public setting, Watters said, “Nothing is scheduled.”
Where the Council Stands
In February, the City Council approved a $75K contract with Barrett Sports Group to study the feasibility and cost of a renovation of Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Last week, city staff said the report was not complete and a majority of the contents would not be made public until after negotiations are finished because of a nondisclosure agreement with the Suns.
The Suns and Phoenix evenly split the nearly $100M price tag on the arena when it was built in the early 1990s. The city still owes about $8.24M on the building.
The council has not discussed the renovation in a public meeting since that February vote, but some individual council members are taking public stances.
In a statement released on Nov. 8, Councilwoman Kate Gallego, who is running for mayor, said she would not support a new or improved arena for the Suns.
Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, the only other declared mayoral candidate so far, echoed Gallego’s financial concerns, but stopped short of saying he wouldn’t vote for it. He said there’s no deal on the table and he wouldn’t weigh in on the hypothetical.
He referenced the deal the council passed with the Milwaukee Brewers, which requires the baseball team to fund the majority of the renovations to Maryvale Baseball Park, as an example of the “new model” he would like to see for sports-facility funding.
In a statement, Stanton said, “It is essential to the success of our downtown that we have a competitive, state-of-the-art arena that can host the kind of large-scale events we have come to enjoy in our city as well as keep the Suns and Mercury here over the long-term.
Read more at The Arizona Republic.
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