This afternoon, the Phoenix City Council is set to vote on a mysterious bill that would authorize $150 million in funding for extensive renovations to the Phoenix Suns’ arena, which was most recently remodeled in 2003. The plan was apparently unveiled less than a week ago; it involves the city paying $150 million, the team paying $80 million, and the Suns agreeing to stay in downtown Phoenix until at least 2037 or face a $200 million fine.
Unsurprisingly, Phoenix citizens seem pretty united in their opposition to give rich asshole and Suns owner Robert Sarver so much money. A full two-thirds of relevant voters think it’s a bad idea, especially since there haven’t been any comprehensive reports on the costs and benefits. According to Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic, Sarver had the four votes he needed for a majority of Phoenix’s seven city council members earlier this week, but swing voter Michael Nowakowski is now likely to vote no after releasing a statement that reads, in part “While I have always supported efforts to strengthen and maintain our economy, I must hold true to the value I place on making sure people are informed and heard.”
In order to keep the deal from being killed, Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams is reportedly attempting to postpone the vote until, presumably, more information can be disseminated to the public or Sarver can sway the no votes and overcome public sentiment. That sentiment will probably be even more stacked against him after today, when he pulled the card that every aggrieved owner has in their back pocket: threatening to move the team.
Sarver has presided over the Suns since 2004, a period that has seen the team devolve into one of the most moribund in the NBA. This year alone, Sarver fired his GM one week before the season started—the same GM who was in charge of making the team’s first-ever number-one overall draft selection (a pick they appeared to have bungled). Suns fans despise him, and they’ve been calling on him to sell the team for years.
The team is currently in the 26th year of a 40-year lease in their current building, but Sarver has the option to move the team as early as 2022 “if the building is considered obsolete.” The Suns’ arena is old by NBA standards, and Sarver might be loathed enough by his fans that he could seriously try to move the team, but the intent of his threat is clear: he doesn’t necessarily want to go to Seattle or Vegas, he simply wants Phoenix to buckle and give him what he wants. Seattle has always made for a good cudgel! Hopefully they tell him to fuck off.