The Coyotes are turning to a familiar Valley face in an attempt to solve their longstanding arena woes. The team has named Steve Patterson the club’s new president, CEO and alternate governor. The hiring comes less than a month after Patterson’s predecessor, Anthony LeBlanc, stepped down after nearly four years on the job.
The team also announced that general manager John Chayka has been promoted to president of hockey operations while keeping his title as GM.
Patterson served as Arizona State University’s athletic director from 2011-13, before leaving for the same post at Texas (a post he resigned in September 2015).
“We are very pleased to name Steve as our new President and CEO,” Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway said in a statement released by the club. “Steve has a wealth of experience and has served as an innovative and successful executive in the NFL, NBA, professional hockey, professional baseball and college athletics for over 30 years. He’s built championship teams and organizations and has managed stadiums, ballparks and arenas across the United States. Most importantly, he previously worked in our market and has the necessary corporate and political relationships to help us secure a long-term home for the Coyotes in the Valley. We’re thrilled to have him join us.”
Patterson, 59, has relevant experience that could aid the Coyotes’ long-running search for a new home.
As senior vice president and chief development officer for the NFL’s Houston Texans (1997-2003), he was responsible for the design, financing and construction of Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) in Houston. He also played a key role in the renovations of the Rose Garden (now Moda Center) in Portland, and the then-Compaq Center in Houston, and he played a key consulting role in the renovation of Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, home of baseball’s Tacoma Rainiers of the AAA Pacific Coast League.
Initially hired as Chief Operating Officer for Sun Devil Athletics in July of 2011, Patterson was tasked with spearheading the school’s plan to renovate aging Sun Devil Stadium via redesign and a major fundraising campaign. That renovation plan is now entering its final stage.
“I think any professional franchise needs an arena that suits the needs of the fan base and can provide a best-in-class experience,” Patterson said. “I don’t need to rehash the past, but obviously, my skill set is in designing, financing and constructing arenas and working with public, elected officials to ensure a franchise has a suitable venue.
“I recognize there’s a lot of hard work to do, but I’m optimistic we’ll have a second generation of Coyotes fans growing up here in the desert.”
In addition to his posts at ASU and Texas, Patterson has served as the Portland Trail Blazers’ team president (2003-2007), the Houston Aeros’ (American Hockey League) president and general manager (1993-97), and as GM for the Houston Rockets (1989-93).
Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was a player, assistant coach and head coach for the Aeros’ while Patterson was the team’s GM.
Patterson has also served as the president of Pro Sports Consulting. Recent Pro Sports Consulting clients have included the Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Clippers, Mandalay Sports, hockey’s Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL), the Rainiers, Texas Southern University and ASU.
As president of Pro Sports Consulting, Patterson told Arizona Sports last year that he was involved in some capacity with the Coyotes’ search for a new arena, but that company will go dormant while he focuses “100 percent on the Coyotes.”
The hope is that Patterson’s local political and corporate relationships will help facilitate an arena solution for the Coyotes — one that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called imperative in a letter to state lawmakers in March in which he wrote: “The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”
The Coyotes’ search for a new home in the Valley took an unexpected twist in February when ASU abruptly pulled out of potential deal in which the franchise hoped to build a 16,000-plus seat arena and an adjacent, 4,000-seat arena where ASU’s Division I hockey program would have played its games at the northwest corner of McClintock Drive and Rio Salado Parkway on Karsten Golf Course.
The Coyotes’ preferred destination is a shared downtown facility with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, but it’s too soon to say whether Suns owner Robert Sarver has any interest in such a partnership, and if he did, whether that would be in the form of new construction or a renovated Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Recent reports suggested that NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Bettman were spearheading efforts to forge such a partnership, but a well-placed NHL source said the characterization of the commissioners’ roles in those reports is inaccurate.
There is also the possibility the Coyotes could try to re-introduce new legislation, in partnership with a municipality, to form a transaction privilege tax that would help fund construction costs in an East Valley city. There are also parties interested in building an arena on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land, but it is unclear whether the financing exists for such ventures.
“Arena deals take time, talks and negotiations,” Patterson said. “They’re kind of like vampire movies. You go to the coffin a dozen times and you think they’re dead, but they keep rising back up. Every single deal I’ve been involved with was thought to be dead a dozen times and then it rose back up.”
Patterson’s Valley ties go beyond his ASU tenure. He knew former Phoenix Roadrunners owner Lyle Abraham and tried to convince him to go downtown with the Suns when they left Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. He has relationships with previous Coyotes actors including former owner Jerry Moyes, former team president Doug Moss, one-time ownership suitor Greg Jamison, various members of the IceArizona ownership group and Jerry Colangelo. He has also maintained relationships at ASU, including Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Morgan Olsen, and Chief Operating Officer Rocky Harris.
Patterson said it’s good to be back in a place he never really left.
“We never gave up our house here, we just leased it out and we’ll get it back in the spring,” he said. “It’s nice to come back and reconnect with the great friends we made while we were at ASU. We’ve really been consistently back here every four to six months and my oldest son graduated [Dylan] graduated from ASU.”
When Barroway bought out the minority owners last month, including LeBlanc, the team began a search for a new president and CEO immediately. Patterson was on the team’s radar from the outset. Patterson said he met with Barroway, Coyotes CFO Gregg Olson and Coyotes COO/General Counsel Ahron Cohen.
“I think the main thing I’ve gleaned here is that Andy Barroway has a vision,” Patterson said. “All the changes you have seen this summer represent the process. Andy is 100 percent owner now; you’ve got a new president and CEO, a new coach, a young GM and lots of young talent on the team. I think it really is a new day dawning for the Coyotes.”
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