After Ralph Marchetta graduated high school, he worked his way through ASU at Veterans Coliseum. He served as a parking attendant, a merchandise vendor and janitor.
His life changed in 1992 when he was offered the chance to move with the Phoenix Suns to Downtown Phoenix. Thanks to that opportunity, he has witnessed the evolution of America West Arena to what is now known as Phoenix Suns Arena.
The arena transformation began in 2020 as Project 201: PHX Reimagined, which brought the venue into the 21st century with infrastructure and technology updates that elevated the fan experience.
The $230 million renovation project happened thanks to a partnership between the Suns and the city of Phoenix.
“It’s incredible from the standpoint that it is a completely new building inside in most ways,” said the Cave Creek resident.
“Every seat in the building was replaced with brand new seats. There’s a new scoreboard. There’s a new sound system, two new LED rings, new club spaces and new concession stands. Probably, the most impressive thing is — I would say — the entry into the building. The pavilion entry has been dramatically changed. It is pretty spectacular.”
The pavilion, which once hid the seating area, is open for better crowd flow and with a view straight into the bowl. It’s alight with living room-quality video screens in the 7,000-square-foot space. Now that fans have returned to Phoenix Suns Arena, they can partake in Arizona’s biggest sports bar.
“There’s a lot more space on the concourses,” Marchetta said. “It’s just a completely different venue.”
The plan was for Phoenix Suns Arena to be closed for two summers, 2020 and 2021, Marchetta said. Crews planned to work from April 2019 to September 2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they started a month earlier on the front end.
“We started in March and then we worked right up until Dec. 1 and a little beyond,” he said. “We were able to really get a lot of the work done this year. What ongoing work we have we’ll continue to do, and we won’t have to shut down the building this summer.”
The players see new energy in the building, too, Marchetta said — especially thanks to the arena’s new lighting that gives the court a theater effect. That’s coupled with the new training facility at 44th Street and Camelback Road.
“The new lighting is very focused on that court,” he said about Phoenix Suns Arena. “It’s pretty dramatic. To be honest, everybody in the organization feels that buzz about the entire Downtown. We’ve got, what feels like, a new arena. We really think that adds to it.
“We’re thinking it would be fun to move Downtown, in terms of having that urban lifestyle.”
After graduating high school, Marchetta enrolled as a history major at ASU. Back in those days, he said, sports management classes weren’t options.
“Now, pretty much every university has some kind of sports management degree,” he said. “It’s the hot thing. I’m teaching sports venue management at ASU.
“I had a history degree and starting out at the coliseum I loved sports and I loved music. I’m not an athlete or a museum. My career here worked out. I created my own program on the fly.”
Marchetta went through his own transformation, as he’s now the senior vice president ticket operations and general manager, sports and entertainment services.
As general manager, Marchetta oversees all operations of the Phoenix Suns Arena. In addition to servicing professional sports teams including the Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, he books all events at the arena.
Marchetta has booked hundreds of concerts including Barbra Streisand, U2, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Vicente Fernandez, Juan Gabriel and Andrea Bocelli. He said he has extensive relationships with Feld Entertainment (Disney on Ice and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus), World Wrestling Entertainment and other family show and concert promoters.
But his role goes beyond the arena. As a key asset to the community, Marchetta works with the leadership of the city of Phoenix, Phoenix City Council and Downtown Phoenix Partnership. In addition, he serves as a board member of the Phoenix Police Department Reserve Foundation.
The organization has been great to work with, he said.
“I’ve been really fortunate in terms of the people I’ve worked with,” Marchetta adds. “I love it and after a while, I thought, ‘Why would I go anywhere else?’
“I love the city. I love the organization. The people I work with are a really important part of it. I had great mentors along the way. I’m so excited. Opening the arena in ’92 and seeing this transformation is really incredible.”