Suns D-League team rises in Prescott Valley

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Prescott Valley officials were beaming following Tuesday’s announcement that the NBA Development League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns was moving to the small community 90 miles north of the parent club’s Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix.

“We have a hometown team now,” said Mike Paredes, executive director of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation.

Formerly the Bakersfield Jam under an affiliate relationship, the new Northern Arizona Suns were purchased by the NBA club and will start playing in Prescott Valley this fall.

“This is going to be the best year in the history of Prescott Valley,” said Mayor Harvey Skoog. “I think that (the Suns arrival) is going to contribute to it very significantly, not only in the revenues, but in jobs and just making the community more enjoyable for all of us.’’

The Suns considered several options before selecting Prescott Valley.

“We have been in a relationship with the Bakersfield Jam for the last three years and as part of our planning in the back of our minds, we always knew that we were going to move the team to Arizona,’’ Suns President Jason Rowley said..

“We did look at keeping it down in Phoenix or moving it down to Tucson, but looking at the demographics, based on having such a high-quality building venue available and the distance, an easy drive, it was sort of a no-brainer for us as we continued to evaluate the other options.”

The Prescott Valley Events Center has been the center of economic struggle in the town of about 40,000. The company behind the building, which once housed the minor league hockey team Arizona Sundogs, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in part as a result of its lack of a permanent tenant since the Sundogs folded in 2014.

Brad Fain, of Prescott Valley’s prominent Fain family, is president of the Fain Signature Group, which runs the Prescott Valley Events Center. He spoke of the journey it took to get to this moment for his family and company, as well as for the city of Prescott Valley.

“Coming out of the recession, things looked pretty bleak at times,” Fain said. “But we pushed on and we pushed forward. Not only us, but the community behind us, the town, Prescott Valley by our side, we all continued to push. And it was during those months that I learned a lot about success and about belief and courage.

“And I read something the other day in an article that kind of connected it all together for me. It said something like this, ‘Success and courage are not always the loud roar in the room, or the loud voice at the conference table. Sometimes it’s that simple little statement at the end of the day that says I will try again tomorrow.’ And I think it’s that simple little statement, ‘I will try again tomorrow,’ that got us to today.”

For the Suns organization, the benefit of a team in Arizona is elementary. Rowley and Northern Arizona Suns general manager Bubba Burrage said having a developmental team just 90 minutes away from the Phoenix Suns facilities gives the organization flexibility it did not have when its D-League team was in California.

“From a basketball standpoint, to transfer players back and forth from the flagship team to the D-League team on a daily basis was very favorable to us,” Rowley said.

Players will be able to practice with the NBA team in the morning and drive to the D-League club for a game in the evening, Burrage said.

But Rowley added that basketball was not the only thing on their minds when they made the decision to move to Prescott Valley.

“Candidly, the Suns brand – it’s important to me that we extend it beyond just Phoenix,” Rowley said. “I think we have a decent following around the state, but the fact of the matter is that this helps us expand out into the rest of the state as well, and that’s helpful. We hope that the entire region is excited about it and that they will show up in November to cheer us on. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

For the town, it means a whole lot more.

“I would say that it’s probably going to be one of the best things to ever happen to the community. Not just Prescott Valley, but the entire region. We have about 135,000 people in the local area, and it’s going to be a big plus.”

To Paredes, it’s personal.

“It’s family. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s a sense of having a direct connectivity with the Phoenix Suns organization,” Paredes said. “It’s a win-win for everybody, from kids all the way to the elderly population.”