Future of Suns, Diamondbacks in downtown Phoenix causing angst

PHOENIX – With significant decisions on the horizon for the future of the Diamondbacks and Suns in downtown Phoenix, some are concerned about what the future might hold if the teams leave.

“It would be terrible. It gives people a reason to come downtown. It gives people a reason to come out, hang out, have some drinks, get some good food,” said Ryan Myette, downtown manager for Majerle’s Sports Grill. “People love going to sporting events and they need a pregame or a postgame place to hangout and have a good time, talk about the game, and it would be terrible to lose the Diamondbacks or the Suns.”

Majerle’s Sports Grill and other businesses could potentially be harmed if the Suns and Diamondbacks relocate from downtown Phoenix. (Photo by John Mendoza/Cronkite News)

The City Council will vote Wednesday whether to approve a $230 million renovation to Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, sued Maricopa County in 2017, requesting $187 million in repairs to Chase Field. The sides agreed to a deal which would let the club start looking for a new home.

Talking Stick Resort Arena is not only home to the Suns, but it hosts more than 200 events each year.

Division about how the repairs should be funded remains. Councilwoman Vania Guevara wrote in a December blog that she will vote “no” because the money is better served elsewhere.

“Let’s make a big investment toward ending homelessness. Let’s make a big investment in early childhood education,” she wrote.

The proposal needs five of the city council’s eight votes to pass.

Although businesses around the arena could be affected by a team’s departures, they do not rely solely on them, said Mark Stapp, W.P. Carey Master of Real Estate Development at Arizona State University.

“The businesses around the arena don’t just depend on the arena business,” he said. “The businesses that depend on downtown as a viable, vibrant employment and residential area benefit from what happens at the arenas because it adds to their business.”

-Video by Taylor Rocha/Cronkite News

The light rail has added to the growth of downtown since going into operation in 2008. It’s especially important in the Legends Entertainment District, which partnered with the Diamondbacks and Suns and bordered by First Avenue and Seventh Street, and Washington and Jackson streets.

“It’s exciting and keeping people downtown and especially now, having the light rail that goes right in the middle of that district where people from Tempe, Mesa and even in the northern parts of Phoenix can actually jump on the light rail and come down and party or go to a restaurant,” Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski said.

The light rail is used by many people throughout metro Phoenix. Nearly 15.8 million people rode it in the past fiscal year, according to Valley Metro’s most recent report. If the Diamondbacks or Suns leave, fewer people likely would go downtown.

Downtown Phoenix has seen immense growth within the past 10 years, especially with jobs. The Legends Entertainment District has seen about 9,000 jobs created in that time period, according to information provided by Nowakowski.

The loss of the Diamondbacks or Suns could impact that growth.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have permission from Maricopa County to search for a new home. This has fueled speculation the MLB team might leave downtown. (Photo by John Mendoza/Cronkite News)

Although losing either team would hurt business, especially on game days, Myette said Majerle’s would figure out ways to compensate for those losses.

“We really rely on the support of the teams downtown,” Myette said. “There’s enough going on, we have enough planning and a strong enough staff and team where we work through all that kind of stuff, so we’re not worried about it, although, we would hate to see it happen.”

It’s not only businesses the potential losses could affect, but it’s also the energy from fans on game day in the downtown area.

“We can throw other parties and there are other events, but it’s a really cool vibe when there’s 50 Diamondbacks fans and 50 Dodgers fans in the front and they’re all pumped to go to the game and the streets are packed with baseball fans,” Myette said.

Nowakowski hopes to see a young Suns team continue to grow along with downtown Phoenix.

“We own the building,” Nowakowski said. “It’s our responsibility for the infrastructure, but we’ve got to make sure we are spending the tax dollars wisely and we’ve got to negotiate the best way we can for the individuals that I represent, and then the owners of the Suns have to represent themselves, too.

“I don’t think they are going anywhere and hopefully everything is going to be worked out and it’s a win-win for everyone.”

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