Power lunch: Arizona Coyotes CEO briefs Scottsdale business leaders on latest developments

Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc delivers his address to the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce Partner Council. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The business elite gathered Wednesday, Jan. 18 at The McCormick Scottsdale to hear from Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc divulge new details on the sports franchise’s expected move to the East Valley.

The Scottsdale Independent was at the invitation-only event.

The event was hosted by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and was a part of the business advocates Partner Council Leadership Luncheon reserved for prominent proprietors throughout the Valley of the Sun.

“We look forward to being your very close neighbor again,” Mr. LeBlanc quipped to Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane at the onset of his address to the audience of about 100 guests.

“The truth is it has been a journey of cautious optimism. We are now in a situation of being more prosperous then we have ever been. I can honestly tell you that we are not looking to jump out of the window of our offices.”

Harrison Rogers, founder and CEO of HJR Global, was the title sponsor for the exclusive event and introduced the Mr. LeBlanc. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Since 2003 the Coyotes have played in the Gila River Arena in Glendale whereas before that time they played in Phoenix in what is now known as the Talking Stick Resort Arena. The franchise moved to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996, according to published news reports.

Mr. LeBlanc recalled he and his core investor group started the motions of purchase for the hockey franchise in August 2013 for what he called “a passion project.”

“Buying a sports team is like buying fine art,” he explained. “We never purchased this team expecting those cumulative losses.”
Mr. LeBlanc told his side of the political fallout between Glendale city leaders and the Coyotes organization that has created a new opportunity for the franchise through a partnership with Arizona State University.

“Look, I like this marriage thing, but I want to date other people,” he said of his perception of where things went wrong with Glendale politics. “But you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.”

Mr. LeBlanc outlined the tough break-up with the city of Glendale — an issue that still persists to this day — through a recollection of meetings held in the summer of 2015 where it became apparent city leaders wanted to renogitate the deal they had just entered into two years prior.

“We were certain we were right. Dead right,” he said. “Two years into the contract they wanted to amend the contract. The mayor informed us they had a legal means to end it. We asked to have them produce one. The meeting ended minutes later.”

Last November the Coyotes named a partnership with the Catellus Development — the designated builder for the Arizona State University Athletic Facilities District — to create a 16,000-plus seat arena with an attached 4,000-seat multisport facility in Tempe, according to a report from Dan Rosen at NHL.com.

“We would love it if the county or state would build another stadium as they are all over the country,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “But this new project has to pay for itself. It’s a new paradigm.”

The proposed site for the sports facility in Tempe — that has been reported to cost around $400 million — would be just west of Tempe Marketplace on the back nine of what locals call “the old Karsten Golf Course.”

“No tax increases. No uses whatsoever of any General Fund dollars. The guiding principles of this deal are not even close to what is being proposed anywhere else,” he said pointing out deals now made public in Las Vegas and Milwaukee. “Our arena project will benefit a number of groups. The project could be an accelerator for mass-transit. With or without us, they (ASU) needs a place for its Division 1 hockey program. Our vision is that this will stretch beyond athletics.”

Mr. LeBlanc remained steadfast on the assertion the Coyotes have every intention of remaining an Arizona sports franchise but it would be unlikely any new plan is hammered out with the city of Glendale.

“The break up has happened. There is an economic reality and at the end of the day the geography just doesn’t work for us,” he said of the Glendale location for the team. “It just wouldn’t be the right thing and it’s time to move on.”

Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Hiegel says it important for business leaders to hear from their contemporaries.

“There is always two sides to a story, but it was nice to hear Mr. Leblanc’s version today of the Coyotes contract experience in Glendale,” he said following the power lunch. “I’m glad that the Coyotes have come to the conclusion that Glendale was not the right geographic location for their fan base. If it happens, this will be a big win for the East Valley!”

Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce Mark Hiegel at the Jan. 18 partner council lunch. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment