Northern Arizona Suns decide to leave Prescott Valley for Phoenix area

Former Northern Arizona Suns player George King said he found it easier to focus on basketball when playing in a smaller community such as Prescott Valley. (File photo by Alec Henden)

The logo of the Northern Arizona Suns is painted on the floor of the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. City officials announced Tuesday that the organization would be relocating to the Valley. (File photo by Alec Henden)

PHOENIX – Citing economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northern Arizona Suns announced they will leave Prescott Valley for a location closer to the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“I don’t think that anywhere else could host the Suns in the state like Prescott and Prescott Valley can,” team public address announcer George Werner said Wednesday. “So that’s why I choose to believe that they’ll be coming back and we’ll continue that relationship.”

The Phoenix Suns’ G League affiliate will vacate the Findlay Toyota Center for at least one season.

“Sadly, when the 2020-21 G-League season tips off, the team will be playing at a location, to be determined, in the Phoenix metro area, allowing us to share efficiencies and resources with the rest of the Suns organization,” Suns Public Affairs Advisor Maria Baier said in a statement.

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The Suns did not announce whether the move would be permanent or where the G League club would play the upcoming season but speculation includes Veterans Memorial Coliseum as well as several large basketball training facilities in the Valley.

Werner said he hopes he’ll be able to follow the team to metro Phoenix if they play in 2020-21.

“I hope very much that they’ll give our staff the right of first refusal,” he said.

Werner resides in Clarkdale, which is about 30 miles northeast of Prescott Valley, but would be willing to commute to Phoenix to call games for the team, he said. He has family in the area.

Prescott Valley Mayor Kell Palguta said in a press release that the city, which owns the arena, hopes to “have a long-term tenant in place as soon as the opportunity presents itself, perhaps even another minor league hockey team.” Findlay Toyota Center previously hosted the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League from 2006-14.

The NBA G League canceled its season in June after initially suspending play in March. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the 2020-21 NBA season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1, though he noted the opening date “can remain fluid.”

Late 2020 or early 2021 is the earliest top U.S. medical experts say a vaccine for COVID-19 could be developed. The G League schedule will likely parallel the NBA’s, as it has done in non-pandemic years.

“It’s premature to say anything definitive, but due to the economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have begun to explore moving the Northern Arizona Suns closer to our parent club in Phoenix,” said Jacob Withee of the Northern Arizona Suns media relations department.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christian Babcock expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a related area in sustainability. Babcock, who has interned with The Arizona Republic, is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports this spring.