Three of the Valley’s four professional sports teams are entangled in “stadium games” threatening to dominate the sports conversation for many years to come. The Phoenix Suns and managing partner Robert Sarver have been talking for at least two years about the possibility of earning a new arena from the league, something that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league can help with. Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly U.S. Airways Center, is the eighth oldest arena in the NBA, and last underwent renovations in 2003. Sarver believes the Suns can be competitive in the short term and a new arena has to be a part of that. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are in a direr situation after the Glendale City Council voted 5-2 last June to kill the lease agreement between the two sides. There are multiple options on the table for the Coyotes, but depending on the location that is decided, the new arena could also house the Suns, and ASU athletics, including the Sun Devils Division 1 Hockey team.
With just days before opening night, the Arizona Diamondbacks have entered the stadium games party and it’s not going over well. On March 12, the Diamondbacks asked the Maricopa County Stadium District to get out of the lease which ends in 2028. President and CEO Derrick Hall believes that the county is on the hook for $187 million in renovations to maintain the life of the building. Maricopa County has said that they have already put in a fair chunk of money, and rejected this request saying the Diamondbacks are on the hook for those renovations in order to protect taxpayers. It’s absolutely absurd to even suggest that the County and the taxpayers to put more money into this stadium when the team was awarded a new television deal worth over $1 billion last February. If stadium renovations for Chase Field were that important as Hall has tried to sell, then the Diamondbacks would structure their budget to pay for those costs, and ownership would invest more money into the team instead of using that same money to fund political candidates.
Simply put the Diamondbacks and Suns requests are going to be hard to sell to the public especially with the economy just starting to turn around and as a result household incomes starting to rise again. Asking people to pay more property and sales taxes for investments in franchises that have seen attendance go down and interest in going to games decline year after year is again hard to sell. People are burdened with the costs when new venues are built, and in most situations there is little to no economic payoff, and in some situations economic losses occur. With interest levels measured by attendance numbers for the Coyotes, Suns, and Diamondbacks as low as they are, it wouldn’t be fair to ask for more of the public’s money to build a brand new venue if fans aren’t attending games in the place the team already has. In fact, building a new venue wouldn’t fix fan attendance problems, it would probably make them worse.