Arizona, let’s ensure we don’t lose another pro sports team

This opinion column by Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden originally appeared in The Phoenix Business Journal. 

As an Arizona sports fan, I can’t help but lament that in losing our NHL team to Utah, we’ve lost our place among the handful of markets that could claim a franchise in the highest levels of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. There was a sense of civic pride – at least for those of us who care about sports – for being part of such an exclusive club.  

As the leader of a business organization, I’m disappointed about the loss of a prominent business. We don’t often think of our sports franchises when we think of leading job creators, but we should.  

Not only do our teams employ well-compensated athletes and front office staff, but they’re also the enterprises behind stadium and arena workers’ jobs. They add to concessionaire and restaurateurs’ bottom line. They move merchandise for our retailers. Maybe most of all, they’re an integral part of the state’s brand beyond our borders. 

When your team is on national TV – like the Diamondbacks in last year’s World Series, or the Suns in the playoffs – it’s publicity that even the best tourism marketing campaign can’t buy. 

Few markets have as much to offer as Phoenix and all of Arizona.  

We have outstanding MLB, NFL, and NBA franchises that are contributing to the Valley and state’s economic health. Consider the new multimillion-dollar Suns practice facility and the Mercury’s new Warehouse District practice facility, also home to the teams’ new offices.  

We’ve rightly earned a sterling reputation for hosting mega events like Super Bowls, college football bowl games, World Baseball Classics, All-Star games, two NASCAR weekends and, as we proved earlier this month, NCAA Final Fours. The Footprint Center will host the women’s edition in 2026. This summer, Phoenix is home to the WNBA All-Star Game, and will host the NBA All-Star Game in 2027.  

All of that’s on top of our annual Cactus League that welcomes fans from all over the country to 10 modern stadiums all within a 45-minute drive of one another, and signature PGA Tour and PGA Champions Tour events like the WM Phoenix Open and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.  

It all adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars in positive economic impact and more than 300,000 Arizona jobs created by sports and sports tourism. 

Arizona has been on the receiving end of teams that relocated. Now we’re the ones saying goodbye. Some markets have gotten a team back. The NHL returned to Winnipeg, for example, after shipping the Jets to Phoenix in 1996, but another market – Atlanta – lost a team for that to happen. Other markets haven’t been so lucky, just ask fans of the Hartford Whalers or Quebec Nordiques. Does anyone think the NFL will return to St. Louis?  

Don’t let the D-backs slip away

To ensure we don’t find ourselves in this predicament again, there are a few things that we as a business community need to commit to doing: 

It’s not a guarantee, but I’m going to assume that the hockey ownership group will win the auction in June for the land where it wants to put a new arena. Once that’s done, the cooperation from the city of Phoenix must be seamless. We can’t afford to slow-walk permits or bog the project down with needless studies and analyses. Where there’s red tape, it has to be cut. 

Take nothing for granted. We’ve lost a franchise. Don’t think it can’t happen again. Just ask Oakland and San Diego what happens when teams start looking for the exit. It’s demoralizing and leagues get skittish about placing another team in a soft market.

With that in mind, let’s get serious about finding a solution for the Diamondbacks, whose Chase Field lease expires in 2027. Whether it’s a modernization of the downtown ballpark or a new home, we can’t let them leave. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking Salt Lake couldn’t pick our pocket again.

The D-backs are the type of corporate citizens other communities would welcome with open arms. Who wouldn’t want a business responsible for contributing more than $85 million to charitable partners and whose most recent post-season success generated more than $100 million in positive economic activity?  

Maricopa County voters in 2000 passed Proposition 302, which established the mechanism that allowed State Farm Stadium to get built and maintained. We should at least consider the best model for a stadium solution for the Diamondbacks. 

Lawmakers and the governor should commit to recapitalizing the mega events fund, the account that helps host committees put together the bid packages to lure big events like Super Bowls and college championships.  

Our sports franchises are important members of the Arizona business community and an immense point of pride. Let’s resolve to secure another NHL club and ensure that our current teams know they’re welcome and valued.

Danny Seiden is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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