Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel immediately noticed one of the major upgrades to Phoenix Suns Arena from a visiting team’s perspective.
“The locker rooms are a lot nicer than they used to be,” he said.
Two different training rooms. More roomier individual locker areas for the players.
“It was one of the older locker rooms, one of the smaller locker rooms in the NBA,” Vogel said. “And now, from what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of space. … It’s all newly renovated. Looks really nice. They did a great job with it. Sure visiting teams will be pleased when they arrive.”
Just part of the major changes to Phoenix Suns Arena that’s undergoing a $230-million renovation project.
“Any new building has a few things they’re still cleaning up, but it is nice,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I can’t speak for the rest of it. I never get to see the upstairs or all the stuff the fans get to enjoy, but down here where we are, it’s pretty efficient and spaced and it was different walking in.”
The arena is about 75% complete, Suns officials said before Wednesday’s preseason home game against the defending NBA champion Lakers.
“It reminded me of the AT&T Center (in San Antonio) when that thing opened up,” Williams continued. “Just the entry and the white halls and things of that nature. I can’t speak for the players, but for us, it’s really nice.”
Suns brand communications coordinator Mychael Ramirez said the final touches of Phase One will be completed by next week’s season opener, Dec. 23, against Dallas.
The Suns hope to have 80% of the renovations done by the end of the calendar year and complete all the renovations before the start of the 2021-22 season.
“Phase Two will focus primarily on the upper concourse spaces in 2021, including the suite levels and ‘The Fry’s Eatery,’ a new family-friendly food hall on the upper concourse,” Ramirez said.
The building is no longer called Talking Stick Resort Arena as the five-year partnership between Talking Stick Resort/Casino Arizona and the Suns ended earlier this fall.
The search for a new partner is “ongoing,” Ramirez said.
The Suns will host the Lakers again Friday at 8:30 p.m. to conclude their preseason schedule. With the renovated arena, coupled with the new $45-million practice facility, Phoenix has made major upgrades to its basketball program.
“What (Suns team owner Robert Sarver) has done, he’s created an environment, a building in a location where guys want to be,” said Williams about the Verizon 5G Performance Center also known as ‘The Lab.’
The Suns practice facility was in the lower level of the arena, that’s now a two-story very “high-end” VIP club area.
“One of the most exclusive spaces within the venue,” Ramirez said. “Members will be treated to a luxurious atmosphere and all-inclusive gourmet dining experience.”
The Suns aren’t having home fans to start the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been working with the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona Department of Health Services and the NBA in hopes to eventually have fans in the arena this season.
“We’ll continue to consult with local and state health authorities and the NBA to evaluate the best course of action with safety for our fans, staff and players our highest priority,” Ramirez said.
The Suns have 20 home games during the first half of this NBA-shortened 72-game regular season. The second half of the league’s schedule will be released at a later date as there may be postponed games during the first half that need to be played during the second half due to positive COVID-19 cases with players, something that’s already happened in the NFL and college football this fall.
This game needs fans,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “We play for the fans. Not only are we playing for our families, our organization and the name on our chest and our back, we’re playing for the fans. And we know that. Just like any artist, we want our fans to listen to our music. We want to entertain our fans. We’re entertainers.”
If and when fans are allowed to attend games, Ramirez said the team’s season-ticket holders will have “priority access to single game and playoff tickets for the 2020-21 season as a benefit of membership” before making the remaining ticket allotment available to those who aren’t season-ticket holders.
The Suns have begun tours for season-ticket holders and invited corporate partners, various stakeholders, community partners and local media to see the renovated arena