Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver Responds to Las Vegas Relocation Rumors

Posted on: December 14, 2018, 06:20h. 

Last updated on: December 14, 2018, 06:20h.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is reportedly considering relocating his NBA franchise to Las Vegas or Seattle unless his current city agrees to cover $150 million of a $230 million renovation at the team’s current arena.

Phoenix Suns moving Las Vegas odds
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver might be soon making calls to see if Las Vegas is interested in being the new home of his NBA franchise. (Image: Carlos Osorio/AP/Arizona Republic/

The Phoenix City Council postponed a vote this week to determine whether to fund 65 percent of the Talking Stick Resort Arena upgrade. The delay was reportedly due to Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams not having the majority support required to approve of the spending.

The City Council is made up of seven people, meaning four “yes” votes are needed to allocate the money for the arena.

Arizona Republic reporter Laurie Roberts says Sarver has threatened Phoenix with relocating the NBA team unless the vote comes in his favor.

“Sarver’s talking about moving,” an unidentified council member told Roberts after speaking with the NBA owner. “He basically told me the team will go (if they don’t get a renovated arena). Vegas and Seattle were the two he talked about.”

But in a social media post, Sarver told Suns fans, “The Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix. I am 100 percent committed.”

He added, “We should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility. In addition, it is important for the Phoenix Suns to build a first-class practice facility, so the players … can continue to develop.”

T-Mobile Attraction

Las Vegas became a major professional sports city when the NHL Golden Knights began playing at T-Mobile Arena last year. The venue was built with an NBA team in mind.

MGM Resorts owns 50 percent of T-Mobile Arena, and the company’s CEO Jim Murren predicts that Las Vegas will have an NBA team within five years.

T-Mobile Arena was the highest grossing arena in the world between June 2017 and June 2018 with $164 million in ticket sales. The venue benefited from such notable events as the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor boxing spectacle, sold-out Vegas Golden Knights games and Stanley Cup postseason, and several high-profile music award shows.

Show Me The Money

Once a perpetual playoff franchise, the Phoenix Suns have been at the bottom of the league for years and have the worst record in the NBA in 2018.

Sarver acquired the franchise in 2004 for $401 million. After some early success with stars Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Suns have now missed the NBA Playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.

ESPN ranked the Suns as the worst franchise in the NBA in 2016, a distinction it also afforded to Sarver, as he was ranked No. 30 of the league’s 30 owners. Phoenix has had one of the smallest payrolls in the NBA over the last three years.

Las Vegas Odds

Here’s how, and when, Sarver could relocate his team to Las Vegas or Seattle.

If the Phoenix City Council can get four members on board for the arena funding, Sarver would be committed to Phoenix through 2037. He would face a $200 million penalty if he moved the team during that timeframe.

But if City Council refuses to cover the $150 million expense, Sarver’s contract with the city would allow him to leave free of penalty in 2022. NBA owners would need to approve of any relocation.

2022 would fall within Murren’s five-year NBA prediction for Las Vegas.