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Phoenix councilman: Suns arena deal had more room for negotiation

(Via Talking Stick Resort Arena)

Sal DiCiccio’s Twitter bio reads “Phoenix councilman pushing fiscal accountability,” and with that, it’s no surprise he was one of two city councilmembers to vote against passing a renovation deal for Talking Stick Resort Arena, the home of the Suns.

“I’ve got a higher responsibility. I’ve got to protect the taxpayer,” DiCiccio said Thursday while joining Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. 

“I think we had a lot more room (to negotiate) in this deal. A lot more. I wish we’d have just pushed a little harder.”

That doesn’t mean DiCiccio wasn’t in favor of renovating the arena. He just wanted to give more pushback to make the NBA franchise carry more of the financial burden on the $235 million project.

The Phoenix City Council passed the arena deal on Wednesday, 6-2, that will have the Suns cover $80 million of the total renovation costs, plus any overruns. That puts $150 million on the city. The city’s portion of the funding will come from its Sports Facilities Fund, which is made up of tourism taxes on hotels and rental cars.

Under the new deal, the Suns will remain downtown until at least 2037.

The biggest chunk of the funding in the approved deal, around $100 million, will go toward replacing or repairing the building’s aging mechanical, electrical, plumbing and communication systems.

Such a deal was first proposed for a city council meeting on Dec. 12 but was delayed until Wednesday, after five community informational meetings. Since December, the city council added a few minor tweaks to the deal, including benefits provided by both the Suns and the city for issues such as homeless issues and public-safety costs.

The current deal for the 27-year-old arena allowed the Suns to leave as soon as 2022.

DiCiccio wished the Suns and the city could have more negotiations to make a more fair deal for taxpayers. Part of that opinion stemmed from his belief the team would not leave Phoenix and that failing to approve the proposal on Wednesday wouldn’t lead to anything other than more negotiations.

The sides had until July 1 to reach a new contract agreement.

“There’s no way the league was going to leave the fifth-largest city, the metropolitan area. So we would’ve ended up getting a better deal. Even if you get a dollar better deal … that’s the financial part of it,” he said. “The emotional part of it, I heard it, I know. I’ve been beat up by every sports person on the planet. But at the end of the day, I’ve got the responsibility.”

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