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Suns president says meetings changed perception of $230M arena deal

(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

PHOENIX — The head of the Phoenix Suns said he expects a positive outcome after a series of public meetings to educate residents on a $230 million arena renovation deal were held this month.

Suns President Jason Rowley told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the discourse between the public and council members at the five meetings has been positive.

“I thought, going into these meetings, there would be a high level of vitriol, attacking the ownership and the team for not being competitive the last few years,” Rowley said.

“To my surprise and my delight, people were more interested in talking about the facts of the deal and were interested in hearing about the economics, how the deal was structured.”

The Phoenix City Council voted in December to delay a scheduled vote on the deal and schedule the meetings after hearing criticism from residents.

The deal would revamp the nearly 30-year-old Talking Stick Resort Arena, the oldest in the NBA that is not currently undergoing renovations, between 2019 and 2021.

A majority of the funds — $150 million — would come from the city’s Sports Facilities Fund, while the Suns would pick up $80 million and be responsible for any costs passing $230 million.

A December poll found that 66 percent of likely Phoenix voters were not in favor of the deal, but a January poll from the Greater Phoenix Chamber found that 49 percent of those voters supported it after they were “educated on the facts of the agreement.”

Rowley admitted that the team could have done more to educate residents and prevent criticism over the deal.

“That’s bad on us for not going a good enough job,” he said. “The mistake we made was following Phoenix’s lead on this process, because it is their process at the end of the day.

“We should’ve known better, we should’ve gotten out ourselves educating the public and the city council.”

But Rowley said he has seen several city council members at every meeting, meaning that the discussion could swing the council’s vote.

“We’re starting to see people’s opinion definitely change,” he said. “The vast majority of folks showing up have been in favor of the deal.”

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