Desert Sky Pavilion opened its gates in November 1990 with Billy Joel as its inaugural concert. It quickly became a premier concert venue in the Phoenix Metro area because of its unique, open-air setting and its 20,000-person capacity, which is greater than any other major arena in the Valley. Since that opening concert, the Pavilion has gone through several names, with sponsors such as Blockbuster, Cricket, Cricket Wireless, and Ashley Furniture HomeStore. In June 2013, the Ak-Chin Indian Community purchased the naming rights to the venue to make it the Ak-Chin Pavilion, which celebrates the Community and its Arizona heritage.
In addition to the Ak-Chin Pavilion, in August of 2014 the Arizona Coyotes, the City of Glendale, and Gila River Casinos reached an agreement to rename Jobing.com Arena in Glendale to Gila River Arena. The Gila River Indian Community owns three major casinos on tribal land in the Phoenix metro area and the agreement offers a marquis opportunity to promote its properties. The venue officially became Gila River Arena in September 2014, marking “the first federally recognized tribal naming rights deal with a sports venue that houses one of the four major professional sports leagues in the country.”
Then, as if building momentum, an agreement was announced in December 2014 between the Phoenix Suns, the City of Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to rename the home of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Talking Stick Resort is the premier entertainment destination on Salt-River Pima-Maricopa tribal lands, located just outside of Scottsdale. In fact, when the agreement was announced, Diane Enos, then president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, explained that the lands on which the arena sits was “our aboriginal territory,” noting that the area once belonged to the tribe’s reservation.
As a state rich in Native American history, Arizona has the second highest total Native American population in the United States, with 6.6% of Arizona’s population of Native American ancestry and 21 recognized tribes. For generations, the native people of Arizona struggled to overcome geographic isolation and limited economic opportunities.
Tribal Gaming changed all of that. As Tribal Casinos were built and expanded across the state, economic growth was the result. Local businesses began to grow in support of this burgeoning industry, tribal economies began to diversify, and Arizona’s tribes became increasingly self-reliant. Not only did the tribes benefit, but through the Arizona Benefits Fund, Tribal Gaming has given back over $1 billion to the State of Arizona to date, with those revenues dedicated to supporting education, healthcare, tourism, conservation, and more.
Today, Arizona’s tribal communities celebrate a strong community culture and commitment to remain self-reliant, while increasing the diversity of their economic sectors. Arizona’s premier sports and entertainment venues stand as monuments to the success of these efforts and the beneficial impact Tribal Gaming has on consumers, tribal members, and all Arizonans. The next time you attend a concert at Ak-Chin Pavilion, catch a hockey game at Gila River Arena, or go to a Suns game at Talking Stick Resort Arena, take a moment to marvel at the economic ecosystem built through Tribal Gaming.