SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/Facilities

Luukko: Global’s deal with Coyotes’ ownership makes sense

Don Muret
The Phoenix Coyotes’ ownership situation was finally resolved last week after the NHL completed its sale of the team to IceArizona Acquisitions Co., a group headed by Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc.

In a separate deal tied to the Coyotes’ $170 million sale, facility management firm Global Spectrum takes over operations of Jobing.com Arena after forming a partnership with the new team owners. The city of Glendale owns the arena and signed a 15-year lease with the two parties.

Last Monday, just after the transaction was officially announced, Global Spectrum Chairman Peter Luukko discussed why it makes sense for his firm to do business with a club that the NHL bought out of bankruptcy four years ago in a nontraditional hockey market.

Global Spectrum runs University of Phoenix Stadium across the street from Jobing.Com Arena, and Luukko believes the company could assist the NHL after the league failed in several previous attempts to sell the Coyotes.
Luukko, who also serves as president and alternate governor of the Philadelphia Flyers, said he emailed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman shortly after the commissioner gave an update on the Coyotes’ situation during a board of governors meeting June 27.

“One of our ideas was to combine some of the staff and buying power for events and there could be some synergy there,” Luukko said. “We’ve been managing University of Phoenix Stadium [which opened in 2006] and have had a lot of success there. Obviously, we think we could increase bookings.”

Bettman agreed with Luukko’s assessment and put him in touch with LeBlanc, the Coyotes’ new alternate governor and CEO. Over the next six days, Global Spectrum and IceArizona, whose Renaissance Sports and Entertainment is the team’s operating entity, hammered out a deal, four weeks before the NHL closed on the team sale Aug. 5.

Now it’s up to Global Spectrum to help the Coyotes’ new owners turn things around at the 10-year-old arena. Greater Phoenix counts two major league arenas, including Jobing.com, and two major league stadiums among its venues, making it a highly competitive market for concerts and other special events.

At this point, Luukko refused to disclose his company’s financial risk and the finer points of the arena management deal. Peter Sullivan, general manager of University of Phoenix Stadium, will oversee both venues.

“Having stable [team] ownership is very important,” Luukko said. “Now the marketplace knows there is a long-term agreement and it gives fans an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this team is staying. We can support it.’”

> PELÉ PAYS: The heritage of the old New York Cosmos paid off for the new Cosmos in stadium merchandise sales.

Throwback jerseys sold well at the stadium for the Cosmos’ return.
Photo by: GAMEDAY MERCHANDISING
On Aug. 3, the new version of the Cosmos played its first NASL game in 29 years in front of a sellout crowd of 11,929 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. The retail per cap was more than $6, said Paul White, in charge of the team’s licensing, merchandising and retail development.

Doing the math, total retail sales were about $72,000.

The team and vendor Gameday Merchandising capitalized on the club’s storied history by selling throwback jerseys for Cosmos legends Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto. Those items, priced at $90, were a huge hit, White said.

“Gameday executed beyond our expectations,” he said. “They were able to develop product and expertly merchandise the program in a relatively short period of time.”

The Cosmos and Gameday are searching for ways to add kiosks to the three temporary sales locations to meet the demand for the next home game, Aug. 24 against the San Antonio Scorpions.

The Cosmos have proposed building their own privately funded, 25,000-seat stadium on a site near Belmont Park just outside New York City. In January the Cosmos submitted a proposal to the Empire State Development Corp., a public authority, to develop the property, said Erik Stover, the team’s chief operating officer. As of last week, the development group had not selected a proposal from among the four submitted, Stover said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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