Arizona professional sports teams see opportunity in Mexican fan base

At the Arizona-Mexico Commission Annual Summit earlier this month one topic came up when it comes to bringing Arizona and Mexico together: sports. With Arizona regularly playing host to major championship games, such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four, there are lots of opportunities to bridge cultures and collaborate with our neighbors.

Tourism is a large aspect that can boost both Arizona and Mexico’s economies. Phoenix International Raceway is undergoing a $178 million renovation, or as President of ISM Raceway Bryan Sperber describes it, a brand-new facility. Sperber talked about how having a new facility not only will attract racing fans but will be an entertainment facility to host multiple events.

“For me, I think the relationship really took a huge step forward in 2013 when we were lucky enough at what was then Phoenix International Raceway – today ISM raceway – to land the first Arizona – Mexico series to be run in the United States,” he said. “It was really an incredibly proud moment for all of us at ISM raceway to see sports truly bring people together.” Sperber hopes this new raceway will have the same effect.

Bobby Dulle, Chief Operating Officer of Phoenix Rising, said they knew right away the relationship with Mexico would be crucial to the success of their organization. Being only two years old, the organization made initial outreach to players from the established Chivas soccer team in Mexico. “One of the first players that we signed as an organization was Omar Bravo,” he said. “Omar Bravo of course is a Mexican national team player, a legend at Chivas. It was very exciting for him, for us as an organization… and to have someone like him that could draw in the Hispanic community, that could draw in players to our roster.”

In order to continue their outreach, Dulle said his organization is “going down into the communities and doing camps back in their hometowns and really extending our reach.”

While some sports franchises have built their relationships with Mexico, other arenas have overlooked the Mexican market, which was ultimately a missed opportunity. “If you look at the NHL website, we’ve done a great job of reaching out to Europe and Asia,” Steve Patterson, President and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes said. “We’ve got 8 different languages on the NHL webpage but there’s no Spanish. That’s a terrible oversight that needs to be fixed.”

Currently Mexico has a national men’s hockey team ranked 36 in the world and 22 ice rinks in the country, with more on the horizon. Patterson indicated that reaching out to the Mexican fan base is part of the team’s future strategy.

Phoenix Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley has been a face in the media when it comes to building their relationship with Mexico. Last year, the team hosted two consecutive games in Mexico City against the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. Rowley sees the relationship as a big economic win and believes sports is a bridge between the two countries, “I think about our relationship between Arizona and Mexico and where there were wide gaps between different cultures and different societies. We certainly might have some differences but the reality is between Arizona and Mexico there’s so much connectivity and so many things that bring us together already that just naturally exist. To me, it’s an easy relationship.”

Morgan Carr

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