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NBA commissioner Adam Silver: ‘It’d be a failure on my part’ if Suns moved

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is confident the Phoenix Suns and their local government will come to an arena agreement keeping the franchise in the city.

Speaking on The Full 48 podcast with Howard Beck (1:10:40 mark), Silver expressed a few points.

One, that Talking Stick Resort Arena needs a renovation.

Two, that the Suns are committed to staying in downtown Phoenix.

And three, that splitting the funding for an arena project is not all on the team.

“Robert made news and then unmade the news,” Silver said of the later rescinded report that said Suns owner Robert Sarver threatened a city councilperson with moving the team to Seattle or Las Vegas. “Subsequently he and others in his organization made absolutely clear that their 100 percent intention is to stay in Phoenix.

“I’ve made clear as well, as commissioner, it’d be a failure on my part if a team ended up moving out of a market. I will say in Phoenix … it’s the oldest arena now in the NBA that hasn’t been either completely rebuilt or renovated. There’s no question the arena needs a substantial investment.”

Funding for other NBA arenas built during his tenure have all been split between local municipalities and NBA teams, Silver said. The commissioner said that with arenas needing upward of 200 days of bookings to be successful, cities must do their part in helping pay for an NBA team’s home.

“I’ll add in the case of the NBA — I think this gets lost sometimes in the public commentary — this is very different than the stadium business,” Silver said. “For an arena in a major metropolitan city — Phoenix is in that category — arenas are modern-day town halls, they’re community centers. The NBA is a fraction of the overall dates. Even a playoff team plus a few presseason games, you’re looking at 50 or so dates.”

Logically, he said, it doesn’t make sense for an NBA team to pay for 100 percent of a new arena.

Silver wrote a letter to the city of Phoenix in support of the arena project going forward, he said.

Last week, the city council unanimously agreed to push a vote on a renovation plan back to Jan. 23. The initial plan called for a $230 million project, with the city paying $150 million toward it from tourism tax money and the team covering the remaining $80 million.

It would have forced the Suns to build and fund an off-site practice facility and commit to staying in Phoenix through 2037.

“That’s what contracts are for, and return for those partnerships, you get commitments from those teams that they won’t move for 10, 20, 30 years depending on the lease,” Silver said.

Currently, the Suns’ lease keeps them in Talking Stick Resort Arena through at least 2022. Under the current terms, there are provisions for arbitration if the city and team don’t come to an agreement.

“These are sophisticated parties, and I think, my sense is they’ll reach an agreement in Phoenix,” the commissioner added.

“Phoenix has been a fantastic NBA city over the years. I can’t imagine that that team would end up leaving that market but people are going to have to sit down, have a meeting of the minds.”

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