The Phoenix Suns played their inaugural NBA season in 1968-1969. Prior to the start of the season, the Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers played a series of exhibition games around the state to generate publicity for the team. On October 1, 1968 the Suns and Lakers faced off here at the Mesa Inter-Stake Center. Unfortunately for the Suns, Wilt Chamberlain led the Lakers to a 113-90 rout of the home team.
The Inter-Stake Center opened as the Mesa Tri-Stake Center in 1955 (A "stake" is a group of congregations in the LDS Church. The structure was originally constructed to serve the three stakes in the valley, the Mesa, East Mesa, and Maricopa Stakes). Additions and renovations in 1959, 1970, and 2013 brought this multi-purpose facility to its current size of 53,170 square feet. The gymnasium can be set up for three basketball courts or four volleyball courts. Also in the building is a 586-seat auditorium, seven meeting rooms, and a food serving area. Open not just to the Latter-day Saint community, the center has played a significant role for the entire Mesa community.
The East Valley Tribune estimates that in its long history, over 23,000 basketball games and 33,600 volleyball games have been played here, along with over 20,000 softball games on the adjoining Ellsworth Park.
Though originally conceived and intended to house church-sponsored sporting events, such as basketball tournaments, the Inter-Stake Center's utility has been expanded to include dance festivals, plays, church meetings, and the Special Olympics. Besides the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, the Harlem Globetrotters, Mesa Public Schools, the Boy Scouts of America, and most recently, Benedictine University have all made use of the facility.
Beginning in 1946 and continuing until the completion of the LDS temple in Mexico City in 1983, members of the church from Mexico and Central America traveled to Mesa to worship in the LDS Temple. Those who were part of these "excursions" typically spent all or most of their money to afford the round-trip bus ticket to and from Mesa, leaving no money to pay for lodging or food. Originally, the excursionists were housed by local members and in the Mezona building. However upon completion in 1955, the Inter-Stake Center took over the housing of these Saints, providing dormitories, kitchen, hygiene, and recreational facilities.