Cardinals president Michael Bidwill (right) poses at the end of Monday's panel discussion with (from left) Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick, Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc, Suns managing partner Robert Sarver and azcentral.com sports columnist Dan Bickley.
As the men who run the four major professional sports teams in the Valley sat on a riser at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Monday night, it was easy to understand why the Cardinals – and team president Michael Bidwill – are in such a good place.
There was the tangible example of the recent success of the team, compared to relative struggles of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and Arizona Coyotes. But then Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc took it a step further.
"We really went to school on what Mr. Bidwill and his team has done over the last number of years building up the organization that they have," LeBlanc said. "We really liked how, when we looked from afar, how Mr. Bidwill and his general manager and head coach and the entire organization interacted.
"It's great to look across the street and see a great example."
The panel discussion, organized by azcentral.com and moderated by sports columnist Dan Bickley, featured an opportunity for fans to listen to Bidwill, LeBlanc, Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick and Suns managing partner Robert Sarver address a handful of topics prior to a question-and-answer session with the audience.
At its core, the discussion was about how important the franchises are with the community, and how the teams relate to their fans.
"I know there are a lot of crossover fans, so they are fans of the Cardinals that are also fans of the Suns and the Diamondbacks," Bidwill said. "They get a chance to see all of us together and talk about their favorite sports teams and see we are all trying to win and win for our fans in Phoenix."
Among the topics including the various stadium issues teams are facing, an issue Bidwill – unlike his three
counterparts – does not have to currently worry about with the success of University of Phoenix Stadium. Bidwill did say it is important for the teams and the community to work together in such cases.
The group also spoke about how technology has been and will impact consuming sports in the future, both in the way games are and will be live-streamed and how social media has changed viewing habits.
"One of the most important thing we need to do as sports teams and sports leagues is focus on the youth," Bidwill said.
Among the fans who attended the event was Larmon Haugen, a season-ticket holder since the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. The franchise has changed dramatically since those early years, and Haugen said Bidwill is "doing a great job."
"Things are changing, players want to come here and play now and it's looking good for the future," Haugen added. "It starts at the top and Michael seems to want to put a quality product on the field here in Phoenix."
Bidwill has heard similar things out in public as the Cardinals have had their recent success, posting a 34-14 record since Bruce Arians and Steve Keim were hired before the 2013 season, but he deflected such praise.
"It's very kind, the things people say, but it's about the players and coaches that are getting it done," Bidwill said. "I want to make sure we have the right people in the right places, but those guys are getting it done. B.A. has done a terrific job, Steve Keim has done an amazing job, and of course, the players. Our offense was amazing last year, our defense was incredible and we will get even stronger as we go through this offseason."
Part of the discussion among the owners was the constant battle to win. The Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001 but haven't made the playoffs since 2011; the Suns had their fantastic Steve Nash seasons on the verge of challenging for a title but haven't made the postseason in five years.
That reality pushes Bidwill with his franchise, even with the advances made over the last decade.
"I am really proud of the progress we have made, but the whole idea is to continually get better," Bidwill said. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. It's about winning, having sustained wins, and every time we can make the chain stronger when we change the link we can make the organization stronger."
Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and Cardinals' staff take part in the 2016 St. Patrick's parade in Phoenix