Suns, City of Phoenix clash with Goldwater Institute in court

Jun 12, 2018, 4:55 PM
Photo: Talking Stick Resort Arena/Facebook...
Photo: Talking Stick Resort Arena/Facebook

PHOENIX — Deliberations related to the Phoenix Suns’ desire for a $450 million renovation to their arena began Tuesday morning at Maricopa County Superior Court over a dispute about documents not made public.

A real estate developer, with the help of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative watchdog group, previously sued the city of Phoenix for not sharing details about the proposed changes and what they believe should be public information.

Jon Riches, Goldwater’s Director of National Litigation and General Counsel, called Talking Stick Resort Arena “a government asset.”

And even though the Suns operate it, they have to understand that when you’re dealing with a public asset that involves the expenditure of public funds, a lot of the information involved there has to be open to the public,” he said.

The subject of much debate is about the 26-year-old arena’s future. Past discussion has included building an arena in a new location or having the Suns and Arizona Coyotes share a facility. The NBA team then shifted its focus on renovation.

Jim Pitman, a member of Suns Legacy Partners, L.L.C., and the Suns’ Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, said the team had engineering and design planning firm HOK conduct a feasibility report of Talking Stick Resort Arena, a report that Pitman says was paid 100 percent by the Suns.

The two sides signed a non-disclosure agreement on June 29, 2016, Pittman said in court Tuesday, with the purpose to “protect the information that the Suns were providing to HOK, as much of it was confidential and related to our private entity.”

The Goldwater Institute argued that just because the Suns and HOK deemed the information confidential doesn’t mean that it is. Talking Stick Resort Arena, where the Suns have played since 1992, is owned by the City of Phoenix. The Goldwater Institute believes it is a public asset which should provide public records.

Pitman said the feasibility report contained ticket pricing strategy, revenue analysis as it relates to sponsorships, future marketing ideas that would be “new to our area,” cost estimates for the future renovation and game receipts that show ticket sales and revenue from the past.

Pitman added that the report has innovative concepts that aren’t on the market yet. If they were to be made public, Pitman argued, then Phoenix and the Suns would be losing out on gaining the most from ideas they discovered,

The report can only be accessed by a “very limited number” of people, Pitman said, and is kept in locked offices at night.

With the study showing estimates of how much the project is going to cost — in essence, what the Suns are willing to pay —  Jeremy Legg, the special project manager for Phoenix, said that if future bidders for the construction contract were able to see what the Suns and the city are believed to be able to pay for certain items of the project, both parties would not get the best possible offers.

During questioning, the Goldwater Institute argued that the Suns and Phoenix have no evidence that those ideas are industry secrets and that other arena’s would employ them as well.

After coming back from break, however, Goldwater’s representatives said that anything in the report dealing with public safety — such as entrances and exits — could remain private. Pitman said the police department has told him “all major arenas are considered soft targets,” for a terror attack.

“The public has an interest in how its asset is managed, maintained, how much money is going to be spent on it and for what purposes,” Riches said. “There are certain things that might have public safety implications that simply aren’t important for those purposes.”

Judge Christopher T. Whitten said that he would give both sides a written order that explains “where I’m going.”

“If the records are disclosed, then we will have them,” Riches said. “And if they’re not, then will assess the judge’s order and decide what the next steps are.”

Penguin Air


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Cronkite Sports

Cronkite Sports

Sports gambling in Arizona moves closer to reality

In the near future, the Arizona sports fan’s experience could include the ability to place bets inside sports venues while the action unfolds.
2 years ago
Higley quarterback Kai Millner committed to Cal this spring, despite visiting the campus just once ...
Cronkite Sports

Arizona high school football recruits still committing amid coronavirus

Despite visiting campuses few times if at all in some cases, class of 2021 high school football prospects from Arizona are committing at record rates.
2 years ago
(Photo via Cronkite News courtesy Mesa Community College Facebook)...
Arizona Sports

COVID-19 prompts junior colleges to push for cancellation of sports

The 2020-21 school year for Maricopa County community colleges may not include sports, schools await a decision by the district chancellor.
2 years ago
New Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez believes outreach in the Arizona Hispanic market is ...
Cronkite Sports

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez looks to reach Latino community

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez is the first Latino president and CEO in NHL history and hopes to reach new fans in the Valley.
2 years ago
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who joined the Phoenix Mercury in the offseason, is ready to get the WNBA...
Cronkite Sports

Full pay, 22-game season in Florida on tap for Phoenix Mercury

Another league has agreed on a return-to-play plan in the month of July. This time it’s the WNBA, whose members include the Phoenix Mercury.
2 years ago
Phoenix Rising FC assistant coaches Peter Ramage (left) and Blair Gavin are awaiting details about ...
Cronkite Sports

Phoenix Rising players await news on resumption of USL Championship

Phoenix Rising FC and the USL Championship are set to resume play July 11 while players wait on more details for the return.
2 years ago
Suns, City of Phoenix clash with Goldwater Institute in court