One of the reasons that hockey is thriving in the desert: The hard work of Tucson Roadrunners President Bob Hoffman, who has worked on much of the team’s activities since day one.
Since the Roadrunners hit the ice, they’ve skated their way to their first AHL Pacific division crown in 2018, when they also earned their first playoff series victory over the San Jose Barracuda.
Hoffman, who will be the keynote speaker at Inside Tucson Business’ Executive Excellence Awards on Wednesday, Nov. 13, has had a front-row seat to the growing popularity of the Roadrunners, with the team growing its per-game attendance in each of their first three seasons, from 4,054 in 2016-17 to 4,294 last year.
The Kent State University alumnus believes the team’s arrival in 2016 played a role in the renaissance that’s taking place in downtown Tucson.
His confidence stems from the continued growth of hotel and retail space in the immediate vicinity to the Tucson Arena/Tucson Convention Center, where the team plays its games.
For Hoffman, the Roadrunners are the kind of draw that brings people downtown, which is the goal of both the Rio Nuevo board tasked with downtown redevelopment and the Tucson City Council.
“I think when you look at the perfect timing of the Roadrunners coming in along with all the renovations of downtown and the revitalization,” Hoffman said. “When you see the AC Marriott launch about a year after we did, you see now with Rio Nuevo putting millions into upgrades, into alterations and renovations over at the entire convention center campus, along with arena included in that. It’s part of a bigger picture that just shows so many good things happening downtown.”
Fletcher McCusker, who chairs Rio Nuevo’s board, certainly agrees with Hoffman’s assessment.
“On behalf of Rio Nuevo, we’re thrilled. I mean these guys have just exceeded every expectation we had,” McCusker said. “We scrambled and put them in that venue. We had like three months to stand up a pro-level hockey venue, and everyone was nervous, anxious, ambivalent. And I think the leadership, particularly Bob, the commitment to the community, the intent to put winning players on the ice, it paid off in spades.”
Hoffman’s road to Tucson was long and winding as he spent time in front offices in Utah, Ohio, Phoenix and Iowa before landing his current role in 2016. This is the first time that Hoffman is overseeing all aspects of a professional hockey franchise, after working for more than 20 years in varying roles that specialized in certain aspects of front office operations.
“I think that forward thinking of being able to have a plan, and what it’s going to take to execute that plan, is key to success as an executive,” Hoffman said.
“I often will preface it that I’m working backwards to where I try to see where we want to be and then I try to look, ‘How are we going to get to where we need to be?’”
Hoffman and his staff have to work out all aspects of the business, from attracting season ticketholders to optimizing the team’s road trips and eliminating wasteful spending to stay on budget.
“So, I do think that that plan is obviously critical. And just from a personal standpoint, I really think it’s important for folks to see that you can also walk the walk,” Hoffman said. “And that’s something that I try to really strive to do here with the Roadrunners, is that there’s not a department or area in here that I don’t get my hands into, from working in that department with them, helping them to structure what their vision is, and trying to listen to them and add where I need to, and try to be a part of what they see as success for whatever that area may be.”
Hoffman said he was excited to be delivering the keynote address at Inside Tucson Business/Tucson Local Media’s annual Executive Excellence Award ceremony at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino & Entertainment in Sahuarita on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
“The business community has been so good to us here, and I’ve seen so many people here in Tucson that it’s a really big city with a small town feel to it,” Hoffman said. “And I think that all comes from the relationships and connections built on that executive level.”