Monthly Archives: July 2003


Lacrosse, NCAA basketball on list of possibilities

by Jason Stone

Until a corporate sponsor steps forward, the name of the new sports facility in the West Valley will be the Glendale Arena.
The Phoenix Coyotes will be the arena’s main tenant.
Beyond that, nobody in the arena’s management team knows what the future holds for the 17,500-seat facility, which is scheduled to open in December.
“We’re looking at a wide-range of entertainment,” Coyotes executive vice president for business operations Brian Byrnes said. “The Valley now has another facility to bring in different kind of things.”
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe NHL released its 2003-04 schedule two weeks ago, and the Coyotes know what dates they will be using the new arena.
Now, the team, which doubles as the management outfit of the facility, is trying to fill up all the open dates on its calendar with other events.
Concerts, ice shows and other forms of entertainment are in the planning stages, and the sporting events could be varied, Byrnes said.
The NHL All-Star Game is a strong possibility for the 2006 season, and that announcement could come any day.
A possible NCAA men’s basketball regional weekend could come to the West Valley as early as two years from now.
And a team from the National Lacrosse League might be relocating to the arena just before the Coyotes start playing there.
Construction on the building has progressed with the installation of 12 miles of cooling coils for the ice floor, which started last week.
The electricity should be flipped on by the end of this week and the building will be completely weather sealed within days.
Opening for the Coyotes’ first official Glendale home game Dec. 27 is still on schedule. But the team is hoping to have at least one other event before then.
“We’d like to have an event before hockey, so it can help us get used to the place,” Byrnes said. “We want to make sure everything is working.”
That first event could be an NLL game, featuring one of a handful of teams from the 17-year-old lacrosse league that is struggling to find consistent markets to hold its teams.
Lacrosse is huge in the Eastern U.S., and like the NHL’s emergence in the American market in the 1990s, professional lacrosse is starting to make a move West.
Two New York-area teams n Albany and New Jersey n have already announced moves to California for the 2003-04 season, giving the nation’s most populous state its first two teams.
The new cities with NLL teams — San Jose and Anaheim — are already established NHL markets.
The Phoenix market may also be attractive to the NLL since the Coyotes are looking for tenants in the new 17,500-seat arena.
“We’re definitely talking to the league, that’s no secret,” Byrnes said. “We would love to have a team play in our building. What we don’t know is whether we would acquire an equity in a team or have them be a tenant in our building. At a minimum, we would like to have a marketing alliance.”
The league was scheduled to announce the alignment for the 2003-04 season, which begins in December and runs through hockey season.
Teams in New Jersey, Ohio, New York and Ottawa have shown a desire to move to another market.
Financial difficulties have kept the league on uneven ground. The Montreal Express folded operations prior to the 2002-03 season, and the Vancouver Ravens struggled to finish the season despite averaging 8,000 fans, the league’s average.
League commissioner Jim Jennings was expected to make an announcement for the upcoming season in June, but that has been delayed.
“It’s a delicate position right now, so the commissioner isn’t sure he is ready to comment,” NLL director of public relations Doug Fritts said about realignment plans. “He just feels things are at a very delicate stage.”
The NHL All-Star Game looks like it might be a lock, depending on whom you talk to.
“We’re definitely engaged in conversations with the league,” Byrnes said. “We have nothing to confirm, but our fingers are crossed. The league has told us that we have a great bid and exceeded their expectations.”
The NHL was expected to announce the All-Star Game sites for 2005 through 2007 prior to last month’s NHL Draft.
“After the draft, the league began its free-agency period and didn’t want to make any announcements,” Byrnes said.
The Coyotes are also looking to partner with Arizona State University for a possible bid to host an NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournament regional weekend.
ASU has previously worked with America West Arena in Phoenix to host tournament games in the past.
“We would definitely be in the game to bid for any or all NCAA tournaments, other than the Final Four,” Byrnes said. “We’d be interested in a men’s or women’s tournament as soon as possible.”
Byrnes said it is possible the arena could be announcing other entertainment events like concerts as early as August.

Published at • July 30, 2003

high schools

Softball toss sends girl to N. American meet

by Jason Stone

If Keanna Lomeli can toss a softball 12 times her age at the Hershey Track and Field North American Finals Aug. 9, the 10-year-old Glendale girl might have a chance at a continental championship.
One-hundred-and-ninteen feet is the distance Keanna’s father, Frank, thinks it will take for his daughter to win the continental Softball Throw championship.
“I think if we can get her up to 119 feet, she has a shot,” said Frank Lomeli, a recreation supervisor with the City of Glendale Parks and Recreation Department.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeanna qualified for the continental competition after taking first in the state and regional competition at Peoria Sports Complex earlier in the summer.
Keanna’s toss of 106 feet, 4 inches at the state meet was good enough to be selected for the continental finals.
Keanna said she is sometimes embarrassed stretching in front of people before a throw, but that it all pays off.
“It makes me feel stronger,” Keanna said about her pre-throw routine.
As it turns out, Keanna was strong enough to be selected to battle about 40 other 9- and 10-year-old qualifiers from across North America.
Hershey Foods, which made candy bars big, sponsors the meet, which features 480 of the best young track and field athletes in North America.
The North American meet is held at the Henry Hershey Field on the campus of Milton Hershey School.
Frank will be making the trip to Pennsylvania with his daughter.
“We’re pretty excited for her,” Frank Lomeli said. “This will be a great experience.”

Published at • July 30, 2003

high schools

Local schools switch their sports leaders

by Jason Stone

Summer brings Arizona heat, but it also means an annual reshuffling of the athletic directors at Glendale and Peoria district schools.
Apollo, Cactus and Independence each received new leaders this summer as school districts completed their annual administration reorganization.
The Peoria Unified School District moved Peoria Sunrise Mountain athletic director Terry Hjelmstad to Cactus to replace Lexi Cunningham, who served two years in that post.
The Glendale Union High School District, meanwhile, moved Michael Fowler from Moon Valley to Apollo and Mike Siwek from Thunderbird to Independence for the upcoming year.
Fowler, a one-time varsity basketball coach and counselor at Glendale High School, was the dean of students at Moon Valley a year ago. He replaces Roy Ambrose, who retired last year.
Siwek is a former teacher and administrator at Thunderbird. Siwek takes over for John Croteau, who is now the principal at Sunnyslope, another GUSHD school.
PUSD is getting new athletic directors at three of its five schools.
The retirement of Centennial’s Gary Chaney opened a spot for former Sunrise Mountain football coach Jim Davis to take over.
And because of Hjelmstad’s move from Sunrise to Cactus, district athletic director Rick Johnson has come out of “retirement” to head up Sunrise’s move to the 5A Conference this fall.
“I’m coming out of retirement,” Johnson joked. “I only worked part-time last year.”
Sunrise Mountain’s move to 5A gives the district three of its five schools at the state’s highest sports level.
Ironwood and Peoria, two schools whose athletic directors will not change this fall, are already 5A schools.
“I’m experienced with the 5A and I think that’s why I’m going up (to Sunrise Mountain),” said Johnson, who expected to move on to campus today. “They’re going to be playing at a higher level and there are some challenges with that.”
Cactus and Centennial remain at 4A, but Centennial is expected to move up during the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s next realignment in the fall of 2004.
Johnson was originally named as the Wells Fargo Region chairman, but will give that title up with the move to Sunrise.
Instead, Johnson expects the other schools to name Hjelmstad as the new chairman at this week’s region meetings.
Johnson’s longtime secretary, Linda Black, will remain in the district office.

Published at • July 23, 2003

high schools

Ex-Canadian Fowler exchanges cold weather for hot job with Hawks

by Jason Stone

Michael Fowler attended college at the U of A — but not the one in Tucson.
“I can’t call it the U of A down here,” said Fowler, the new athletic director at Apollo High School, and graduate of the University of Alberta. “Nobody will know what it is.”
For those with a bad sense of direction, Alberta is the second western-most province of Canada. Red Deer, Fowler’s hometown, is so small, Fowler just says, “I’m from Edmonton,” when he meets people.
“Usually, people have heard of that city,” Fowler said. “I just say I’m from there.”
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApollo student-athletes will certainly hear of Fowler by the time school starts in mid-August.
Fowler replaced the retired Roy Ambrose as the Hawks’ athletic director last month, giving the 47th Avenue school a fresh look for the 2003-04 school year.
The former Glendale High School varsity basketball coach (1999 through 2001) spent the last two seasons as the dean of students at Moon Valley High School.
“I’m real comfortable with this (AD) position,” said Fowler, 37, who is married with no children. “My background is in athletics so this should work out.”
Fowler played sports growing up and coached right after receiving his first teaching job in Canada in the late 1980s.
The University of Alberta’s sports programs are also considered some of the best in Canada.
Fowler will be in charge of trying to make Apollo one of the best high school programs in the state.
“I’m still getting around to meeting the coaches,” Fowler said. “Right now, we’re just getting ready to start up (the year).”
Since arriving in Arizona, Fowler has received his masters’ in counseling from Northern Arizona University in 1999 and has been working on his doctorate in education leadership over the last three summers.
“I want to see how far this (job) can take me,” Fowler said.

Published at • July 23, 2003

Nashville first foe for Coyotes in Glendale arena

Music City, welcome to one of the world’s largest antique markets.

The NHL announced last week that the Nashville Predators will be the opponent for the Phoenix Coyotes in their first game at the new Glendale arena Dec. 27.

The Coyotes, which have played in the America West Arena in Phoenix since moving to the Valley in 1996, will play the season’s first 2½ months at that arena before moving to the new 17,500-seat Glendale facility.

In the NHL’s official schedule, the Coyotes will open the season at AWA Oct. 10 against the St. Louis Blues, which feature former Coyote captain Keith Tkachuk.

The Coyotes will start the season by playing 25 of its first 41 games on the road. The team will play 13 regular season games at AWA before moving to Glendale. The final Phoenix game is set for Dec. 15 against Minnesota.

The Coyotes will open the Glendale arena with a three-game homestand. In addition to the Nashville game, the Coyotes will host the New York Rangers Dec. 29 and play a special New Year’s Eve game against the Los Angeles Kings.

The longest home stint is six games between Jan. 24 and Feb. 4. Detroit, Calgary, Ottawa, Dallas, Columbus and Florida will bring in teams during that span.

A five-game home stand from Feb. 20 through 27 will feature Columbus, Nashville, Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Edmonton.

Detroit will make two appearances at Glendale arena Jan. 24 and March 18. The Red Wings are traditionally one of the biggest draws at America West Arena.

Other notable home games include:

  • Jeremy Roenick and the Philadelphia Flyers will make their only appearance Oct. 18.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs stop in the Valley for the first time since 1997-98 season Oct. 23.
  • Stanley Cup finalist Anaheim makes its first visit Nov. 8.
  • Mario Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguins come to Arizona for a Feb. 25 game.
  • Colorado Avalanche makes the final regular season trip to Valley March 12.

All home games start at 7 p.m., except games against Atlanta (Jan. 11) and Minnesota (March 7), which will start at 5 p.m.

The season finale against Chicago April 3, which is also Fan Appreciation Day, will begin at 2 p.m.

Single game tickets will go on sale Sept. 13 for all America West Arena games.

Sale dates for individual tickets for Glendale games have yet to be announced.

The Coyotes are selling full-, half- and partial-season ticket packages, including a weekend plan.

Call (480) 563-PUCK for ticket information.

Published at • July 23, 2003