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Tip off: Phoenix eateries hope Suns seasons brings in big crowds, business

PHOENIX — As the Phoenix Suns get ready to begin their season Wednesday, bars and restaurants near Talking Stick Resort Arena are hoping for big crowds in the coming months.

“[The Suns] are bringing 17,000-19,000 people a game downtown, and that influx into downtown is very significant with our sales,” AJ Sulka, managing partner of Majerle’s Sports Grill, said.

The Suns play 41 games in Phoenix — plus any playoff games — over the course of the basketball season. That can bring big dollars to local eateries near the arena.

“They definitely bring a better clientele to our pub,” Toby Aebersold, general manager of the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, said. “Between the conventions that are coming into town, with the weather being nice and the Suns, we’re excited for this time of year.”

Kenton Wells, sales and marketing assistant with the Hard Rock Café in Phoenix, said his restaurant also reaps the economic benefits.

“We’re right across the street, so it’s a good location for us,” he said. “We definitely like to staff up for it and make sure that we’re able to take care of all the fans that are willing to come in.”

Street performers also get a chance to put on a show. Ernie Rodgers, who plays his guitar for fans outside the arena, enjoys interacting with the fans. He said it allows him to become a better musician.

“I can try different chord progressions, things I couldn’t normally do in a show,” he said.

The Suns open up the regular season against Dallas. The tip off is set for 7 p.m., with coverage on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.