From the outset of the discussions about what the City of Phoenix should do with Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, it seemed like it was a fait accompli that the $230 million remodeling project proposal would pass, despite the posturing and outrage from some on the City Council. And they got their way, passing a deal that, in my opinion, punts the decision on what to do with sports in the Phoenix metro area for 10-15 years and still doesn’t answer any long-term questions about a combined basketball/hockey facility to share with the Arizona Coyotes.
It’s not a secret that I’m against public funds going to fund sports stadia, even if those funds are allocated from some pot of money that’s theoretically not paid by the taxpayers of that city (e.g., hotel taxes). Nothing in law prevents those funds from being used elsewhere (see page 2 of this PDF file).
In the month-long effort of councilsplaining (credit to Neil deMause for that wonderful word) why Talking Stick Resort Arena needed public funds for its remodel, one of the arguments made by the Suns and the City was that downtown Phoenix would be struggling if the Suns were to decamp for other places. Even if you discount that argument as pure absurdity seeing how the Suns only play 41 games at home per year during the regular season and the few other concerts and events happening there, downtown Phoenix still seems to do OK on the remaining 300-ish days.
The Downtown Phoenix of 2019 is far different—and far better—than the downtown Phoenix of 1992, when the then-America West Arena opened. It is starting to become active again not just during the day but at night. Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue are becoming vibrant arts corridors above and beyond the major monthly art walks. All of Arizona’s public universities have major presences Downtown and support biomedical research (ironically, built on land originally assembled to be a new stadium for the Arizona Cardinals). People are choosing to live downtown. And, perhaps most importantly, light rail links downtown Phoenix with some of our metro area’s most important places.
As an advocate for central-city Phoenix, I recognize I’m in the minority opinion on this matter. It was enlightening to see all of the organizations doing their full-court press to pass these subsidies for the arena and to see our councilmembers parrot the talking points put forth.
May Phoenix not become Glendale and have to close parks and libraries just to pay a stadium bond debt.