Colangelo reminisces: Diamondbacks vs. Scorpions
Story and photos by Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University students again were blessed Tuesday with the opportunity to listen to Phoenix business icon Jerry Colangelo discuss private and public funding of sports arenas with Fox 10 sports anchor Jude LaCava.
A large crowd packed the second floor of the Student Union for the fourth annual discussion between Colangelo and LaCava.
Business and sports management students listened intently as Colangelo told how he was able to help build Phoenix into a major metropolitan city through sports. But the main point he wanted everyone to take away transcended business: Be trustworthy.
“I just want to stress the relational thing again,” Colangelo said toward the end of the 45-minute conversation. “I believe so strongly in relationships and connectivity, that you need to be able to converse, articulate, look people in the eyes. That will take you a long way. That could be the difference.”
Amid the talks of taxation, investment, innovative revenue streams and urban cores, Colangelo told a multitude of insider stories about how Phoenix’s professional sports scene came to be.
He said that after relentless work in the 1980s, Phoenix awakened in the early ’90s and found triumph in its most famous defeat.
It was 1993, and the Phoenix Suns had made it to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. The Suns had an outstanding regular season, earning home-court advantage over the Bulls. But Michael Jordan and company bested Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle and the rest of the hometown team in six games.
After the devastating loss, 300,000 people showed up downtown in 108-degree heat to show love to the Suns. It was in that moment Phoenix evolved.
“I think it changed the day 300,000 fans showed up in ‘93,” LaCava said. “That’s when this city moved into adulthood.”
A week after the gathering, Colangelo received a call about Major League Baseball.
“They came to me and said, ‘Jerry, we think we are ready for Major League Baseball, and you are the only one who can get this done,’” Colangelo said. “Baseball was in trouble with collective bargaining. I said ‘Look, I’ll get back to you. I’ll think about it.’”
Colangelo said he took a year to do his due diligence and decided that there was a future for baseball — that its state at the time was the lowest it would be. The money trend in the baseball business was on its way up.
Couple that with a provision written into state law by a former legislator that allowed for a “baseball-only stadium,” and the Arizona Scorpions were on their way.
Scorpions? Yes, that actually was the team name that won the vote. Colangelo, however, decided the second-place name was a better fit. You can do that when you’re Jerry Colangelo.
“When it was time to pick a name we had thousands of possibilities, eventually got down to the final two. Diamondbacks, Scorpions,” Colangelo said. “With nine people, we passed out ballots. I didn’t vote. I looked at the results, 6-3 Scorpions, and I said the name of the team is the Diamondbacks.”
The crowd loved that nugget just as much as the city loves its Diamondbacks.
Good call, Jerry Colangelo.
“When I looked at the faces of people who were in attendance, you kind of get a wide variety, so to speak,” Colangelo said after the discussion. “What I saw were people who were paying attention. And I think that is a real blessing and a skill to be able to be a good listener. You can learn so much by being in someone’s company who has been around the track or had experiences and is willing to share those things. You can get a great education that way. I know I followed that as a young person coming up through the system that whenever I had opportunities to be around mentors or people who had accomplished a lot, I was all ears.”