Larry Fitzgerald believes in representing his adopted NFL community. The NFL’s leader in catches with one franchise has helped build the community around his Arizona Cardinals over the past 15 years.
Arizona has become his home, and he’s not afraid to help it thrive — beyond the Cardinals.
So Fitzgerald was disappointed that a city council vote to renovate the Phoenix Suns’ home of Talking Stick Resort Arena was delayed Wednesday. Joining Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, Fitzgerald pleaded for Valley taxpayers to consider the benefits of helping the NBA team and Phoenix find a resolution.
“You don’t think of Phoenix without the Phoenix Suns,” Fitzgerald said Friday. “The Suns took a chance on Phoenix in the 70s coming here with (star) Connie Hawkins and (owner) Jerry Colangelo. They took a chance on us, and I think it’s time we take a chance on the Phoenix Suns. They’re loyal to this community. I really believe this is a Suns town, people love the Suns, they were the first ones here.”
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Fitzgerald is close to Suns owner Robert Sarver, who has been hit with backlash this week after a later-corrected report suggested he threatened to take the Suns away from downtown and possibly out of the state.
The Suns have denied that they have any intentions of leaving their current home in downtown Phoenix.
Fitzgerald said fans should take the Suns and Sarver for their word.
“He’s drastically misunderstood. I love Mr. Sarver,” Fitzgerald said. “I spent a lot of time with him. I can’t think of anybody who I trust more than him. He’s one of those guys, he’ll look you in your eye, he’ll shake your hand. He would go out of his way to help anybody he knows. Once you know him … it’s easy to love him.”
The postponed vote on the arena renovation plan on Wednesday was for a $230 million deal where $150 million would be paid for by the city while the Suns chip in $80 million. That would keep the Suns downtown until 2037.
The vote was pushed to Jan. 23.
Fitzgerald believes the city will benefit by keeping the Suns where they are, as a refurbished arena would bring concerts, tourism and other benefits to the area.
“I think us as taxpayers, we’re looking at it the wrong way,” he said. “I think if we look at it that way, it’s easier to digest.”
And for the Suns, Fitzgerald said a state-of-the-art home could bode well for the team. Just ask him how it went for the Cardinals when they left ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium for what’s now State Farm Stadium.
“I played my first … two years at Sun Devil Stadium,” Fitzgerald said. “I remember looking up and wondering if this is the National Football League, sitting there with 15, 20 thousand people in attendance and just how fast it changed when we moved to Glendale.
“I think the same thing could happen for the Suns. But not only for that. For the Mercury and for more entertainment coming downtown. Mr. Sarver is going out of his way to really help build downtown Phoenix.”