To think back on the six or seven members of a skeleton crew that began this franchise some 30 years ago, and to realize that we now have over 300 full-time employees working for our various businesses - the Suns, Phoenix Arena Sports, America West Arena, the Team Shops, etc. - reality definitely comes calling. By this time next year, we will also be celebrating the conclusion of the first season of the Arizona Diamondbacks, an incredible asset to the state of Arizona that would not have been possible without the groundwork laid by the Suns. Much as America West Arena did some five years ago, Bank One Ballpark will spur a whole new round of downtown development that will literally change the face of Phoenix for years to come. The Diamondbacks and Bank One Ballpark will employ 145 full-time and 1,100 part-time workers by the end of their first campaign, further evidence of the growth of major league sports in Arizona and the positive effects it brings.
Talking about the "numbers" is one thing, but our determination to become a leading corporate citizen is far more important to our growth and our contribution to the Arizona community. You've heard me say it many times before, but our fans owe us nothing. It is up to us to earn their respect and to return their support by becoming an integral member of our community. Through the efforts of Phoenix Suns Charities, not to mention the individual efforts of our players, coaches and employees, this franchise has been absolutely dedicated to "giving back" to the community. With over $7 million in charitable contributions over the past five years, we don't mind putting our money where our mouths are, so to speak. It is simply the right thing to do and our fans have come to expect such from us.
As in everyday life, sometimes it takes an anniversary to force us to pause and reflect upon what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. For all of our work off of the court, we're just as proud of our on-court successes.
In the 29 seasons played by our franchise to this point, we've reached the playoffs 19 times, including 17 of the past 20. This is a record of consistency that only one team - Portland - can match. Our trips to the NBA Finals in 1976 and 1993 galvanized this city like nothing before or since. I can still look out at the plaza in front of America West Arena and visualize 300,000 people braving a hot June day in 1993 to celebrate what was a dream season for us. Almost.
As I said, anniversaries are appropriate times to reflect on what has been accomplished, but also what remains to be done. With the incredible support of our fans, we've been able to reach many goals, but our ultimate dream of an NBA Championship remains unfulfilled. I can look back on our 29 exciting seasons and can also look forward to our 30th because I know in my heart, we will soon reach that goal.
Then we will REALLY have something to celebrate.