By the Happy Wanderer
Play-by-play announcer Al McCoy has been the voice of the Phoenix Suns for generations of radio listeners. For over 50 years, his calls have instantly transported us from wherever we are to sitting courtside right beside him.
McCoy’s trademark call is “SHAZAM!” Hearing him say it, a listener knows that a Suns player has nailed a three-point shot. Something good is happening.
Al hasn’t had the opportunity to announce “SHAZAM!” too often lately. The Suns will likely miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season and seem to be bound for the NBA Draft Lottery yet again.
Despite these on-court struggles, McCoy and Suns fans could be roaring the catchphrase if they’ve witnessed team and city officials attempt to garner the support of Phoenix residents for a proposed arena renovation deal where the city pays $150 million and the team plays $80 million to modernize the 26-year old Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns’ downtown home is the NBA’s fifth-oldest active arena and the league’s oldest non-renovated venue.
In December, there was a rush to get a deal approved. It appeared as if Mike D’Antoni was calling the shots and “the Seven Seconds or Less” Suns were leading the charge at getting the Phoenix City Council to approve of the renovation scheme. In reality, however, Earl Watson must have been the one coaching those who were leading the proposal. The team stumbled out of the gates and citizens reacted to the plan with extreme vitriol. One poll in December found that nearly 66 percent of respondents opposed it. The last time Phoenicians were this pissed off at the Suns, general manager Lance Blanks tabbed Lindsey Hunter to be the team’s interim head coach instead of Suns Ring of Honor-member Dan Majerle. The $230 million deal was labelled “a bust.” Think Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss.
At the end of 2018, the Suns front office and city leaders took a timeout in an effort to regroup and catch their breath. Earlier this month, they broke their huddle. They have held a series of five public meetings all over the city to make clear where the money for the deal comes from (the Sports Facilities Fund, which consists of hotel room and car rental taxes levied on non-Arizonans), how the money would be spent (widening concourses, plumbing updates and roofing repairs, etc.) and why the deal must get done.
The Suns and Phoenix Community and Economic Development Director Christine Mackay, with help from several city council members, have approached each meeting with the gusto of Charles Barkley attacking the boards for a rebound. They realized that getting public support for the deal was like winning a best-of-seven series in the NBA Finals; you don’t need to win every game, you just need to win four, meaning they don’t have to make every single person happy. In every meeting, they’ve tactfully explained the deal’s finer points and have responded to citizen concerns. Now, a recent poll finds that 49 percent of respondents support the renovation proposal and only 25 percent oppose, a pretty remarkable turnaround from a few weeks prior.
Is the proposed deal perfect? Absolutely not. Then again, nothing can be as sweet as a Devin Booker jump shot, as resounding as a shot blocked by Larry Nance, or as efficient as a Steve Nash-to-Shawn Marion alley-oop. The proposed $230 million deal gets the job done and will have Phoenicians shouting “SHAZAM!” now and into the future.