Stanton: New Suns venue downtown should also house Coyotes

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said he has a personal stake in the Phoenix Suns remaining downtown. He grew up a Suns fan. (Photo by Cuyler Meade/Cronkite News)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton on Tuesday announced his commitment not only to keep the Phoenix Suns in downtown, but to bring the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes to the city – without raising any new taxes.

As an exclamation point at the end of his State of the City address at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel in downtown Phoenix, Stanton laid bare his intentions to help the Suns build a new arena, and made clear that he wanted the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and the Coyotes to share the venue.

“I will do everything I can to pursue a course that makes a new facility home to the Suns, Mercury and the Coyotes,” Stanton said. “Building two new professional arenas in our region simply doesn’t make fiscal or common sense.”

While expressing interest in a new venue, the Suns are committed to remain in their current home until the lease ends in 2021.

Stanton said his plan must follow “two governing principles.”

“First, a new arena must not only keep the activities we have in place, but bring in new events and new people downtown,” he said.

“The second principle: I will absolutely not raise taxes for a new arena – any plan for a new venue must only use the existing sports facilities fund.”

Following his address, Stanton clarified his intentions.

“We have an existing sports arena fund, which is paid for by hotel tax and car rental tax,” Stanton said. “That has a balance in it. It’s what paid for the existing arena, and it’s been building new balance in the meantime. The point I was making was that we’re not going to pass any new taxes. Your sales tax, your property tax, won’t be affected by any relationship that we have with the Suns or Coyotes.”

Stanton said the site of the potential new venue was still a point of discussion, but he did mention one site in particular that was in consideration.

“You’ve heard a lot about whether a site that is kitty-corner to the current arena, where the older convention center, the civic plaza currently is,” Stanton said, “but we have to be open-minded. When we enter into a discussion, a negotiation, you’ve got to be open-minded to other options.”

Stanton seemed unconcerned whether the Suns (which are owned by same group that owns the Mercury) would want to give up sole occupancy of their venue. Pointing to successful NBA-NHL partnerships like the Lakers-Clippers-Kings shared usage of Staples Center in Los Angeles, Stanton expressed confidence that an agreement could be achieved.

In his address, Stanton said this is more than good business for the city. As a Phoenix native, it’s personal.

“I grew up in Phoenix in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which is to say I grew up a Suns fan,” Stanton said. “The ‘Madhouse on McDowell.’ Throughout the years, the franchise has been a partner to the city, working with us to revitalize downtown.

“The team has told me that in the near future, it will begin to look for a new home. It is essential we keep our team downtown.”

In other points, the mayor said:

  • The state legislature “continues to wage a war on cities.” He cited a recent law that threatens to cut revenue for police officers and firefighters. “To the legislators who voted for that bill, let me say this: We are not the problem. In fact, we are the solution, and instead of interfering with progress, learn from us.”
  • ProMexico, an effort to create new trade opportunities, has opened an office in Phoenix. “We are turning the page,” he said, saying the Phoenix region has doubled exports to Mexico since 2012.
  • The city has been selected as a “Smart Gigabit Community.” The private-public partnership will give Phoenix app developers new tools to enhance the lives of residents.
  • Phoenix will soon be home to The Armory, the nation’s first facility solely dedicated to providing services for veteran entrepreneurs.
  • In the first few months of 2016, the city has created 8,000 “quality jobs” in Phoenix. The new jobs, he said, have a median income 25 percent higher than two years ago, and Phoenix’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8 percent four years ago to 4.6 percent today – “The lowest it has been in eight years.”
  • About 3,500 residential units are under construction or “in the pipeline” downtown.
  • An “Innovation District” in the Warehouse District is among his proposals. “Innovation districts are emerging all over the world in leading metropolitan areas where research facilities, education institutions and close-knit networks of entrepreneurs can work together and multiple commercialization,” he said.