Tempers in Phoenix over a proposed $230 million plan to renovate the Suns’ home arena have grown hotter after a debacle of a city council meeting Wednesday night left one senior citizen screaming, “Don’t do this to us again!”
That would be Greta Rogers, according to local Arizona politics reporter Brahm Resnik. Rogers, apparently a mainstay at government hearings, let the council members have it and went to town on Suns owner Robert Sarver over his mismanagement of the team.
Sarver earlier this week threatened to move the Suns to Seattle or Las Vegas, markets clamoring for an NBA franchise, if Phoenix did not vote to spend public money to renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena and build a practice facility. The team has put $80 million toward the project and asked the city to supply the other $150 million. In exchange, the Suns would remain in Phoenix until 2042 or face a $200 million penalty.
The two sides had struck a deal when the plan was rolled out six days ago, according to the Arizona Republic, but Councilman Michael Nowakowski backed out of the four-vote coalition that would have allowed it to pass. Instead, the council delayed the vote until January.
But Rogers, clutching the microphone so hard her knuckles turned white, was not having it.
“Mr. Sarver has done nothing to improve this team in the 14 years he’s owned it,” she said. “He’s never funded or bought — paid for — two or key three players, which make any professional sports team successful or on the road to success. He’s so tight, he squeaks when he walks.
“And you have been negotiating with this kind of person? Shame on each and all of you.”
Rogers has taken the council to task before on public spending on sports properties. When the body voted in 2017 to spend tax money to pay off debt accumulated by public golf courses, Rogers hollered, “You gave the middle finger salute to the citizens of the city of Phoenix and then stuck the finger in their eye.”
Sarver publicly backed off on the threat to move the Suns on Thursday. He told the New York Times that reports about possibly moving the team were inaccurate even though a city councilman told the Republic, “Sarver’s talking about moving. He basically told me the team will go (if they don’t get a renovated arena).”
And the city manager said, “They’ve talked about what their options are. Robert has never threatened me. He’s mentioned that there are other cities that are looking for NBA teams.”
In a video the team tweeted Thursday Sarver said bluntly, “First and foremost the Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix. I am 100-percent committed . . . to keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”
But if it will take $150 in public money and a backroom negotiation to do it — Rogers called it “Chicago politics at its worst” — maybe Sarver will take the Suns somewhere else.
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