SBD/December 10, 2013/Franchises

Desert Oasis: New Ownership Group Generating Significant Buzz For Coyotes

LeBlanc and his group did not formally take over the Coyotes until early August
Since Coyotes President & CEO Anthony LeBlanc and the IceArizona ownership group "rescued the Coyotes from oblivion last summer, the circle of fans in Arizona has begun to grow appreciably," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. LeBlanc said that the Coyotes' per-game revenues have grown by 15% "over the last full NHL season (2011-12)." He added that sponsorships have been "robust and there have been instances of competition amongst sponsors wanting to be connected with the hockey club." Burnside noted along with a "surge in ticket sales, the sales and rentals of suites are at an unprecedented level for Jobing.com Arena, and the buzz around the team has shifted from being almost exclusively about 'where will this team end up?' to actual on-ice issues." It is all "rather remarkable given that LeBlanc and his group didn't formally take over the team until early August." In that two-month period before the start of the season, they "worked out a new concessions contract and reworked their local television deal." Now the group has been "working steadily to repair long-fractured relationships with fans and sponsors." It "won't happen overnight -- the team still ranks last in the NHL in average home attendance -- but the group continues to mend fences with a long-neglected fan base." The team is planning a "big pre-Olympic event with a many members of the 1980 gold medal U.S. team being flown in for a game against Chicago." There also are "tailgating parties before some home games which are growing in popularity, especially with the owners themselves" (ESPN.com, 12/9).

THE GREAT OUTDOORS: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday said that Phoenix is "prepared to host an outdoor game." FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com's Craig Morgan cited a source as saying that the Coyotes ownership group has "approached the league about doing just that." If the game "comes to fruition -- and much must still be sorted out before that happens -- it likely would be held at Chase Field during Super Bowl week in 2015, when the NFL's marquee event is being hosted at University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 1." The stadium's retractable roof would "help mitigate the potential for weather issues, but the challenge would be to sell 50,000-plus seats for the game, likely requiring a marquee opponent" such as the Blackhawks (FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com, 12/9). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun cited a source as saying that it was "still premature at this point to confirm any potential cities for outdoor games next season" (ESPN.com, 12/9).
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