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PHX Studying Suns Arena Remodel

The Phoenix Suns play in one of the oldest arenas in the NBA. Phoenix now has to decide whether to build a new sports facility or renovate the aging Talking Stick Resort Arena. Credit: David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic

By Dustin Gardiner for The Arizona Republic

Phoenix leaders have for several years looked at building a new, taxpayer-funded arena for the Phoenix Suns. But the city will now spend tens of thousands of dollars to explore whether an upgrade of Talking Stick Resort Arena is a better option.

The city has extended its contract with Barrett Sports Group, a sports-business consultant, in a move that signals a possible shift in strategy for keeping the NBA team downtown.

Council voted last month to pay Barrett an additional $75K to study the feasibility and cost of a renovation. The firm has spent the last year researching options for building arena under a $190K contract.

Deputy City Manager Paul Blue said the consultant will examine what upgrades could be done to modernize Talking Stick, which is one of the oldest arenas for NBA teams.

If a deal materializes, the team likely would foot a portion of the bill for a new or renovated arena.

Suns’ Lease Could End in 5 Years

Uncertainty about the team’s future downtown has stirred in recent years. Team owner Robert Sarver says the franchise needs a new facility, and the Suns have an option to potentially exit their lease in 2022. Yet plans for a new arena have not emerged.

City officials haven’t ruled out a new arena, but renovating the existing facility could be cheaper and comes with a possible political advantage: It might not require a vote of city residents.

Blue said Barrett Sports Group will present its findings to the council, likely by the late spring or early summer. He said the city and the Suns have not agreed on a “specific strategy” with respect to a future facility.

How to Pay for Arena

If Phoenix decides to build a new arena or remodel Talking Stick, city leaders are expected to try to pay for it with tourism-tax revenues. The city already has a permanent tax on hotel and motel stays and car rentals that was created to fund construction of Talking Stick.

Some council members have said that money should pay for other, more urgent needs rather than an arena for wealthy sports-team owners.

Read more at The Arizona Republic.

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