Suns answer ticket price anger by pointing to arena enhancements

The Phoenix Suns have moved to defend season ticket price increases linked to the redevelopment of the NBA basketball franchise’s Talking Stick Resort Arena, following fan criticism.

The Suns are currently in the midst of the renovation project, which has proved controversial due to the level of taxpayer money involved. In November, the team revealed renderings of the $230m (£177.9m/€202.9m) revamp of Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The redevelopment, labelled ‘Project 201: PHX Reimagined’, will renovate one of the oldest arenas in the NBA. The facility has not undergone a facelift since its opening 27 years ago. In January 2019, Phoenix City Council approved the renovation plan, ensuring the future of the Suns in the city until at least 2037.

The arena has served as the Suns’ home since 1992. The team in December 2018 agreed a deal to stay at the facility until 2037 but the council later delayed a vote on the renovation amid suggestions that the franchise may move to Las Vegas or Seattle. The renovation sees the city contribute $150m towards the project, with the Suns to cover the remaining $80m.

The season ticket increases have been revealed as the Suns plan to debut the major upgrades made under the renovation later this year. It is projected that around 65% of the work will be completed in time for the team’s season opener in October, including nearly all of the fan-facing elements.

The Arizona Republic said some season ticket prices are increasing by 50% or more, citing the example of the lower level of Section 112 of the arena, which will see prices rise from $5,590 to $13,500.

Ken Ash, a season ticket holder for nearly two decades, told the newspaper that his seat in Section 112, row 23 is increasing from $2,409 this season to $4,343 next season, adding that he, and many other season ticket holders, are considering whether to renew. He said: “We were expecting an increase, but that seems totally, totally exorbitant. I don’t think it’s fair to the fans regardless of what they’re doing.”

The Suns maintain the average season ticket price increase, excluding courtside club seating, is 15.6%, adding that the rise is merited as fans will be effectively receiving “a new arena” when the work is completed ahead of the 2021-22 season. Dan Costello, Suns chief revenue officer, also pointed to the fact that season ticket prices haven’t increased in 10 years.

“We are having some increases, but we’re also giving a lot more amenities back to the fans,” Costello said. “These prices are based on demand, not just arbitrarily raising them. We have people who want those seats.”

The Republic said that through the renewal process, the Suns are informing season-ticket holders they can maintain their current prices if they move to sections often farther from the court.

“If we were going to raise those prices, we need to do a few things,” Costello added. “One, we need to make sure the experience is equal to the price range that’s there. Two, if they didn’t want to do that, and being longtime season ticket members with us, we wanted to make sure they had the first option to relocate to an area that fits their budget.”

Image: HOK