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Shine and dine: How do local sports leaders sell visitors on Arizona?

Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill (Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)

Around Doug & Wolf’s Newsmakers Week, we wanted to get to know the leaders of the local Arizona sports landscape a little bit better.

We picked four off-beat questions to get a sense of their duties and leadership styles.

1. If you are recruiting or hiring someone and you have a day to sell them on Arizona beyond the workplace, where are you taking them and what are you showing them?
2. If you had the time to stop your job to learn one skill to make you better at your job or otherwise, what would that be?
3. What is the last book you read? What is it about and why did you read it?
4. What’s the toughest decision you had to make in your career? Is there anything you regret?

Here is Part I of our four-part series, where our Valley sports leaders discussed the pros of living in the Phoenix area — and particularly what restaurants they like to frequent.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim

“I would say any of the options when it comes to Steak 44, Dominick’s, Ocean 44. You can tell I’ve had a few steaks in my life. That’s probably our go-to in terms of restaurants.

“This is such a phenomenal place to live and there’s so many things to sell about living here. That’s the fortunate part about working for the Cardinals, is we already have that built-in advantage to other teams of palm trees, sun, cost of living, all the good things that come with Arizona.”

Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall

“I think for us it’s pretty easy because there’s probably a baseball focus already … You can’t miss out on the restaurants. Go to the Mexican restaurants and show them what true Mexican food is all about.

“There’s some near the stadium that we really like: there’s Juan’s (Authentic Mexico Food) … of course you could always do America’s (Taco Shop). We now have a new partner in Gadzooks. I like authentic. There’s some really good ones, Rosita’s and Juan’s.”

Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill

“The first thing I do is make sure they understand the great experience I’ve had here in Arizona in terms of moving here, the beautiful weather and the lifestyle and how … Arizona is really about working through the week and getting to the weekend so you can enjoy the weekend and all the hiking and swimming and tennis and golf … it’s usually spin them around the Valley. Sometimes that’s in a helicopter depending on who it is … sometimes it’s in the car. The restaurant: My go-to place is Tarbell’s on 32nd and Camelback.”

ASU head football coach Herm Edwards

“If I’m going to recruit somebody, I’m going to show them the stadium. If I’m going to hire somebody, I’m going to show them the office. You have to sell them where they’re working at. They’re not going to be working outside the building. They’re not going to be playing outside the building. So why wouldn’t you show them the facilities? That’s kind of important. You can’t trick people.”

Suns general manager James Jones

“Probably taking them to Old Town just so they can get a sense of historic and new Phoenix, Scottsdale. Then would probably stop by Ocean 44, grab some food later in the evening. If seafood isn’t their thing, take them to Steak 44. Can’t go wrong either way.”

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo

“Obviously the first thought is Old Town Scottsdale. Everybody kind of migrates to that thought. There are some new, modern ideas, maybe a round of Top Golf. Maybe a favorite restaurant or two.

“I like Blue Adobe. It’s up kind of right near our house, it’s one of my favorites, some Mexican food. There’s some staples. You can migrate over to Grimaldi’s, have a pizza dinner and head right across the street to the ice cream shop (Sugar Bowl). It’ll vary depending on what you feel like their moods are and what they want to eat.”

ASU president Michael Crow

“Usually what I do when I’m selling someone, we take a look at all the great parks. The North Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the South [Mountain] Park, and then also just the nature of the neighborhoods. And so it’s just this fantastic place to live. So livability is what I focus on.”

Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen

“We’re fortunate there’s so many great places in the Valley but for me, you got to hit this corridor between Biltmore, North Central and Old Town Scottsdale and Arcadia. My favorite restaurant is Mora Italian. Then also you got a lot of great new places — Nobu just went up. You got to sell people on everything that’s going on and all the growth going on in this area of Phoenix.”

Former Suns and Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo

“I think the biggest selling points that we have is quality of life in Arizona. It’s totally different than it might be back East or the Midwest, etc. Getting familiar with the landscape so-to-speak — it includes the layout of the community, it includes the restaurants, the shopping, etc. It just gives them a bearing of what living here might be like. Certainly (as owner I was) always emphasizing just how much of a — although a growing community — still a small town in terms of attitude. That the team in Phoenix, the Suns back then, were really much about living here. If you were part of this community, it encompasses more than putting on a uniform.

“The first thing you do is find out what their interests are in terms of food. You know, it’s easy for me if it’s Italian food, then there are two or three or four of those restaurants I would select.”

ASU athletic director and VP for university athletics Ray Anderson

“We live in Tempe — actually I live literally on campus. If they’re coming and I’m taking them out, very frankly, there is an old restaurant called (House of) Tricks that is kind of a stable there. You get a lot of lunches with professors and staff. It’s just down to earth, got a nice ambiance. There’s always a table for the athletic director, which I appreciate.”

Fiesta Bowl executive director Mike Nealy

“The first thing you do is look up in the blue sky, look up in the sun. I came down here years ago from Minnesota middle of the winter … the weather you can’t beat. If you’re into outdoor stuff. I think what people don’t think of is all the outdoor things, the hiking, the biking. If you’re a water person, there is plenty of water to be found.

“Hike yourself up to the top of Camelback and look around.”

“If you get yourself into (Old Town) Scottsdale area and there’s the night fun for sure, for the younger people. One of my favorites is The Mission down there, it’s a great place to eat.”

Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen (via email)

“I would definitely want to take someone to Salt River Fields because we think we have one of the best spring training sites in all of baseball and one of our unique advantages is the ability to live at home for spring training. Then of course, I’d want them to see Chase Field because that’s our home for six months and I’d probably end it with dinner at my favorite restaurant, Hillstone on Camelback.”


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