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Phoenix vote ends speculation of Suns’ move to Las Vegas

Updated January 23, 2019 - 7:39 pm

Cross that option off the list.

The Phoenix Suns agreed to a 23-year deal Wednesday with the Phoenix City Council to renovate their downtown Talking Stick Arena following a 6-2 vote, ending speculation that the team might relocate to Las Vegas or Seattle.

The vote on the measure, which was postponed a month, came after backlash from fans over public funding as well as a threat from Suns owner Robert Sarver. He reportedly threatened council members he would take his NBA team to Las Vegas or Seattle if he didn’t get the city-financed $150 million upgrade to Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Sarver, who will pay $80 million toward the improvements, later downplayed his remarks and assured Suns fans the team wasn’t going anywhere.

Though Seattle is the first team city many people think of in terms of a new NBA home, Las Vegas has a lot more in its corner thanks to MGM Resorts International’s efforts to attract a team with:

— An NBA-ready venue in T-Mobile Arena. Seattle won’t have one for two years, when Key Arena is renovated for its debut as home to an NHL expansion franchise. T-Mobile Arena has hosted NBA exhibition games and is the home of the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament.

— A WNBA franchise purchased last year and moved from San Antonio to play at Mandalay Bay Arena as the Aces.

— The WNBA All-Star Game, which will come to Mandalay Bay in July.

— Hosting the NBA’s G-League Showcase, a four-day event that included all 27 of the NBA’s minor league teams, last month at Mandalay Bay Arena.

— And sponsorship of the the NBA Summer League, an 11-day event which includes all 30 NBA teams at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.

Other scenarios for an NBA team to land in Las Vegas include:

— The league could expand to 31 or 32 teams. While no expansion plans have been announced, the NBA has shown interest in returning to Seattle, which lost its team to Oklahoma City 11 years ago. Once Seattle’s arena renovation is complete, the league could move back there and likely would need an expansion partner — just like the NHL did.

— Or the Grizzlies could move from Memphis. Their lease ends after the 2020-21 season, they have the sixth lowest attendance in the league (15,632), owner Robert Pera seems to dismantling the roster and there have been multiple disputes over FedEx Forum leases and expansions.

— Or the Pelicans could move from New Orleans. Franchise majority owner Tom Benson passed away last year, the team’s lease runs out in 2024 and the Pelicans rank 26th in league attendance (15,546) this season.

Any move would have to be approved by the 30-member NBA Board of Governors.

Bill Bradley is sports editor of the Review-Journal. He can be reached at bbradley@reviewjournal.com.

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