New Findlay Toyota Center GM Cadwell ready for challenge
Primary role to bring more events to Prescott Valley venue
PRESCOTT VALLEY — Long before he sat behind his spacious desk in an enclosed office on the second floor of Findlay Toyota Center, general manager Shane Cadwell’s mission was clear.
By the time former Prescott Valley Event Center GM Scott Norton left in February after 1½ years, he had accomplished his main goal: re-establishing a naming rights partner for the 6,000-seat arena at the corner of Glassford Hill Road and Florentine Drive.
Now, Cadwell, a 46-year-old native of tiny Wall Lake, Iowa, inherits the unenviable task of attracting more events to the center’s annual docket to bolster the revenue-generating capability of the once-bankrupt complex.
“Scott did a really good job of building momentum with events and a good staff,” Cadwell said March 26.
Built in the mid-2000s and currently owned by the Town of Prescott Valley, the arena — despite being in good condition — needs someone of Cadwell’s expertise and experience to rejuvenate its bottom line. Cadwell said he periodically reports financial updates on the arena to the town.
Since 2000, Cadwell has worked for Spectra — a large corporation whose managers are hired by towns and cities across America to run their smaller arenas and make them economically viable into the future.
“We’re a steward of their asset — an up-to-shape place where people have fun,” Cadwell said.
Cadwell’s stops for Spectra include Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, Colorado, from 2000-11, as well as Amherst, Massachusetts, from 2011-14, and Rio Rancho, New Mexico, near Albuquerque, from 2014 through early 2019. Spectra operates 13 arenas in its western region, from Washington state and Wyoming, to Arizona and Colorado, to Oklahoma and New Mexico, to Texas and North Dakota, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.
An outdoorsman who likes to golf, Cadwell said he requested that Spectra relocate him to Prescott Valley when the position opened.
He likes that’s there’s a good “opportunity for growth and momentum here.” Having a three-year naming rights deal in place with Findlay Toyota in Prescott is “a huge benefit to the building,” Cadwell added.
“Our business model is to be aggressive with booking, promoters and agents to create more event business — revenues from events,” he added.
SUNS. CHECK. RODEO. CHECK. HOCKEY?
Cadwell has been on the job here for a month. He spends parts of his days researching which types of events cater best to the population in Yavapai County, as well as in northern Arizona. He has noticed that country music concerts and Christian-themed events draw big crowds here, for example.
The Northern Arizona Suns, the Phoenix Suns’ NBA G League affiliate, have played their first three seasons at the event center (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19). Formerly the Bakersfield Jam, the Phoenix Suns relocated their minor-league franchise here so they could more easily move players to and from Phoenix.
Cadwell said the Suns’ five-year lease has two seasons remaining on it, including 2019-20 and 2020-21, but that he will have ongoing conversations with the Suns to try and keep them here.
“Our relationship is really good, and they love the market,” he added.
When the arena first opened, the Arizona Sundogs minor league hockey team of the now-defunct Central Hockey League (CHL) played at the arena, which had been called Tim’s Toyota Center. The Sundogs competed from 2006 through 2014 in the CHL, winning a CHL title in 2008. As part of the event center’s bankruptcy, the Sundogs organization went dark after the 2013-14 season.
It has been five years since the arena has had hockey. Could it be revived?
“We’re always open-minded to it,” Cadwell said. “We’re always going to listen to offers. But at this point we’re not talking with anyone necessarily. It will be a topic of conversation. It was very popular while it was here.”
If hockey returned and the Northern Arizona Suns stayed, scheduling would be difficult because their seasons likely would overlap. However, when Cadwell was in Colorado, he said the Colorado Eagles minor league hockey team’s schedule didn’t interfere with the WNBA’s off-season league.
“It can work,” Cadwell said. “There would be some challenges with building infrastructure, particularly locker room space. But it is certainly do-able.”
For hockey to make a comeback in Prescott Valley, Cadwell said it would take a good owner who’s willing to invest in the market and in the growth of youth hockey. There might also be “a lot of jockeying with minor leagues.”
Over the past two years, the event center has played host to the PRCA Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo, which is expected to take place here again this year, on Oct. 4 and 5.
“They’re a great group of guys, and we work with them closely,” Cadwell said of the rodeo, which operates under a year-to-year agreement. “It’s in both groups’ best interest to keep talking.”
The arena also plans to keep the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) as a partner. Each year, the event center plays host to AIA’s state wrestling tournaments and portions of its boys and girls state basketball tournaments.
“Those are huge events that we really want to maintain a great relationship,” Cadwell said.