A crowd of over 2, 000 spectators arrived to cheer their team, connect with the community, and enjoy a night out with loved ones as the Northern Arizona Suns opened their season on Saturday, November 10 at the Findlay Toyota Center.
Here are a few of their stories.
Jenni Turner, a lead teacher at Verde Valley Learning Center, has been a Prescott resident for a little over one year after moving from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jenni said she began working at the concession stand toward the end of last season.
“When I came at the end of last season, it was kind of slow, so it’s cool to see how busy it is at the beginning of this season,” she said in reference to the crowd of about 2, 000 spectators.
“Hopefully the Suns do well. They are good people,” she said.
“I like to people watch. It’s nice to see everyone come in and support the team.
She said working the concession stand at games has helped her to become more involved in the community.
“I meet a lot of new faces just by working here,” she said.
Harrison Martin, an insurance agent with Country Financial and a resident of Phoenix, was at the game as part of an event for vendors on opening night.
He noted the friendliness of the crowd.
“Everyone seems super friendly, willing to talk, and excited to support their team,” he said.
He was impressed with the ties between attendees.
“It is a very close knit community where people think about each other and will grab a card for a friend, even if they don’t need insurance themselves.”
Robin Gossman, a retiree from Chino Valley, works in Guest Services near the court-side buffet.
“I guard the food,” she said with a smile.
Robin described herself as as an avid sports fan and supporter of the Phoenix Suns.
She said she enjoyed being a part of the event—which she has been since the very first NAZ Suns game.
“Before the G-League, I was a Suns fan and went to Phoenix in the Steve Nash era,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have a sporting team that’s connected to the big team in Phoenix.
“I’m glad to see the number of people here and with the way the team is playing, we’ll increase in numbers,” she said.
She said working the Suns games made her feel connected to the team and the community.
“I want to be involved with all the people. This keeps me involved in all phases of the event,” she said. "We get regulars and new people, and we are like family.”
Rebecca Kraxberger, Humboldt School District Wellness Coordinator, and Katie Western, a homemaker, both Prescott residents, attended the game with their husbands and young children. Both said the event was perfect for families.
Rebecca said her family has attended games regularly, while Katie said opening night was her first game.
“It was my birthday yesterday, and I said, ‘why the heck not’?” Katie said of the decision to attend the game, while watching after her five-year-old, Reese, in a bounce house during the game.
She described the evening as, “Awesome, really fun, and family friendly.” Her friend Rebecca agreed.
“My kids love [the NAZ Suns mascot] Buckets, cheering for a team, and for a family it is something fun to do that's different,” the mother of three said.
Ken Butler, a YRMC employee from Prescott, praised the entertainment value of the game while watching the halftime balancing act with his three children, Aaron, 11, Xander, 7, and Eva 5. “It’s the excitement of the game and the halftime entertainment, stuff for kids to do,” he said of his reason for attending the game.
He added that a sales associate at Wal-Mart provided his tickets to the game, and noted how great the half-court seats were. He said the free tickets made it possible to bring all of his kids to the game.
Sam and Judy Ross, a “semi-retired” contractor and a recently retired schoolteacher, moved to Williamson Valley from California. Opening night was their first NAZ Suns game.
They said they valued the opportunity to be more involved in the community through attendance at NAZ Suns games.
“We would like to come to more games,” Sam said. “The energy from the players is very high. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the play,” the Los Angeles sports fan said.
Sam said attending the game would give him a chance to change team allegiances in his adopted home town.
“Getting connected to the Suns is a good way to get connected to the community,” he said “You see a lot of families here. It’s a great atmosphere and a good value,” Judy added.