‘Sports’ Day in the Sun’ shares some bright ideas
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau
The impact of sports on the community — especially in giving back — was the hot topic Tuesday in “Sports’ Day in the Sun” at Grand Canyon University.
Hosted by the Colangelo College of Business, Guggenheim Insurance and Horrow Sports Ventures, the event brought together top executives from Arizona sports teams and organizations to discuss what’s ahead and put into perspective the sports boom of the last five decades.
It also was an educational opportunity for CCOB students, who filled the Antelope Reception Center for the 2 1/2-hour program. “Best turnout we’ve ever had,” said Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow, whose company puts on about a half-dozen conferences a year around the country.
The two panel discussions, “Sports & Society” and “Mega-Events and Facilities,” gave the students insight into how top sports executives think and what they see happening in the next few years.
The best example of community outreach was the discussion in the first panel about the inaugural Indy Women in Tech Championship, scheduled for Sept. 4-10 at the golf course inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event will provide awareness and funding for women to learn more about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and re-enter the workforce in tech jobs.
Dan Towriss, senior managing director of Guggenheim Insurance, said the company would like to turn it into a national initiative but first is focused on rebuilding communities.
“If the community is continuing to rot from the inside out,” he said, “the community is going to continue to crumble.”
Krystal Thomas, who plays for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA and also is an assistant women’s basketball coach at GCU, continued the giving theme when she provided a professional athlete’s perspective.
“It’s a responsibility to give back to young women and young athletes,” she said. “I am a role model.”
Josh Rawitch, senior vice president of content and communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, said the team will pass $50 million in community giving this year even though it has been in business for just 19 years.
Of the team’s dispute with the city of Phoenix over the condition of Chase Field, he said, “I can promise it will never have one iota of impact on what we do in the community.”
The Valley’s second most controversial sports issue — the Arizona Coyotes’ ongoing dispute with the city of Glendale — was addressed during the second panel discussion by Anthony LeBlanc, the NHL team’s president and CEO.
Horrow began that session by noting that the leases of 77 sports teams will expire in the next seven years, and LeBlanc didn’t hesitate to point out that the Coyotes are first up — theirs ends at the close of the current season.
“We’re in the wrong location. We can say that publicly,” he said.
In November, the team announced plans for a new arena in Tempe, and LeBlanc said he hopes that a recently introduced bill in the Arizona legislature, SB 1474, can help forge the public/private partnership the team needs to make the new facility affordable.
Another key member of the second panel was Dawn Rogers, executive director of the 2017 NCAA Final Four in Glendale. She revealed that the Final Four, which will be in Arizona for the first time, will hold a skills competition at GCU on Thursday, March 30.
But the best part of the afternoon was reserved for more insider stories from Jerry Colangelo, one of the most respected and influential sports businesspeople in the country and a key contributor to Tuesday’s event.
“Sports has such a great impact on a community — psychologically, for sure,” said Colangelo, who told of how the Coyotes’ current arena mess might have been avoided if he had gotten the go-ahead from the NHL in the 1990s to make Talking Stick Resort Arena (then America West Arena) hockey-friendly when it was being constructed.
As the second panel discussion wound down and the noise from the gathering crowd at GCU Arena for the men’s basketball game grew louder, Horrow said, “You’re playing Bethesda, and it sounds as if you’re going to raise the roof. You’ll get to the Top 25 because of Jerry.”
But the last word, appropriately, belonged to Colangelo, who told the students in attendance, “For those of you who have business acumen and want to be in the world of sports, the sky’s the limit.”
Thanks to Tuesday’s event, they got a good look at the view.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.