By now, you know who Greta Rogers is. The 90-year-old dynamo Phoenix Suns fan has been a fixture of Phoenix city council meetings for years. She recently became internet famous for pushing back on the Suns’ latest attempt to fleece the city for an upgraded arena. In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the clip:
Even though the near universal disdain by basketball fans for Robert Sarver is what makes this clip go viral, it’s worth noting that what matters here isn’t Greta’s cheap shot at Sarver’s shoes.
What matters is her more fundamental disdain for the Suns’ attempt to use public funding to remodel Talking Stick Arena. Mrs. Rogers is opposed to the idea and as Suns fans, we should be too.
What the Suns are attempting to do is turn back the clock on the relationship between cities and teams. In the modern NBA world there is an increasing push to have arena be 100% privately financed and owned. The gold standard of this approach is the Golden State Warriors who will soon open Chase Arena, a $1 billion arena without a dime in public subsidy.
The Los Angeles Clippers will be building their own $1.2 billion arena with the city picking up only the costs of the environmental impact.
In Seattle where they just aspire to bring back an NBA team, the new Center Arena will cost over $700 million with the city putting in just over $3 million.
Las Vegas has similar aspirations and it has asked for $0 from the city.
This is the way the modern NBA is headed and it’s the way it should be. This is a win-win for the teams who get to make money off the arenas year-round and the cities who enjoy the benefits of a team without having to ask taxpayers to foot the bill.
Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, and many other teams are already operating on this win-win model.
Even when arenas are publicly owned, like they are in Phoenix, the teams rarely have tried to hand off the heaviest portion of funding to the public. In most cases the city and the team have split the costs evenly.
Little Caesar’s Arena is Detroit is publicly owned and the team put up $600 million while asking for $350 million from the public. Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento just opened with the team contributing $335 million to the public’s $255 million. Minnesota’s Target Center was renovated last year using $75 million from both sides. Fiserv Forum opened this year with $250 million from each side.
And yet the Suns are asking the people of Phoenix to contribute $150 million while offering to contribute only $80 million of their own. It’s an outrageously bad deal that has only one equivalent in all of the NBA, which is in Atlanta with $140 million public and $50 million from the team.
If you’re like me, you are a ravenous Suns fan. You want the team to win, you want the city to embrace the team, and you want that all to happen here in Phoenix.
The best way for those conditions to happen is not for the team to push for a deal which only has 25% support of the general population.
There are better ways to do this deal: the Suns could easily just go find a new site and do what so many other private teams have done, build their own arena. If the city wanted to invest in transportation infrastructure to support that new arena, great. It could help the city maximize its investments without needing to spend the money on a basketball team instead of on its citizens.
The Suns could also buy out Talking Stick Resort at cost. For the $89 million the city could give the Suns the arena for what they paid in construction costs. The team is valued at an estimated $1.3 billion for a product that is dependent on the arena.
Making a $600-$800 million investment in acquiring and remodeling the arena would be a clear win for both the team, the city, and the fans.
As Suns fans, we should encourage the team to create a win-win environment for everyone. Not to try and fleece the public with a historically bad deal that’s completely out of step with the modern NBA environment.