The Phoenix city council is meeting today to discuss a possible new arena for the Suns, but as it’s a closed session we won’t know exactly what was discussed. What we do know is that the political landscape in Phoenix is crazily uncertain right now, thanks to last week’s election results:
- Four candidates for mayor split the vote such that none got a majority, meaning the top two vote-getters, Kate Gallego (43.9%) and Daniel Valenzuela (26.1%), will head for a March runoff. Gallego has declared that “it is not in Phoenix’s best interest to invest in an arena”; Valenzuela has been more open to the idea, though even he said during the campaign, “For too long, taxpayers have been expected to foot the bill for sports venues. This practice must stop now.”
- Since both Gallego and Valenzuela were formerly on the city council, both their old seats will be up for grabs in March as well, making for a significant swing on the nine-member city council (which includes the mayor).
The last time anyone in city government spoke out publicly about the Suns arena demands, it was to suspend negotiations after team owner Robert Sarver asked for $250 million in city money to fund renovations. Negotiations eventually resumed, but clearly nobody is super-eager to deliver bags of cash to Sarver’s door.
This stalemate can go on for a while yet: Sarver has until July 2022 to opt out of his lease in Phoenix, though obviously he’ll be working to heat up arena talks as that date approaches. What he would do if he did opt out is another story: While he’s previously said he’d “explore other options,” no other cities in the Phoenix area have been rushing to build him an arena either. I suppose Sarver could consider relocating to Seattle’s renovated KeyArena, which wouldn’t be much of a step down in terms of market size, but as an Arizona native he’d have to face being burned in effigy at all of his college reunions.
Really, the best bet for Sarver might be to come to an arena agreement fast, while interim mayor Thelda Williams, who is at least lukewarm to sports subsidies, is still in office. Though is past sports team owner behavior is any precedent, he’ll throw all his support behind Valenzuela, who will then lose, leaving team officials to tweet angrily about how life isn’t fair.
(Obligatory closing joke about how this mess is way more entertaining than watching the Suns play basketball.)