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People on the move: Tasmania AFL, Hockey Canada and more

Image: Grant O’Brien / Hockey Canada / Alamodome

Image: Grant O’Brien / Hockey Canada / Alamodome

We round up the latest movements from the stadium sector and associated industries…

Grant O’Brien (pictured left) has been appointed as the inaugural chair of the new Tasmanian AFL Club.

The team is due to enter the league by 2028 after its establishment was approved by the AFL earlier this year as plans were passed for a new 23,000-seat stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart.

Tasmania-born O’Brien was chief executive of retail giant Woolworths from 2011 to 2015 before being appointed chairman of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and Tourism Tasmania. He was also a member of the government-appointed AFL taskforce.

O’Brien said his priority is to establish the team’s board by the end of August.

O’Brien said: “I’m determined to lead a board that will be focussed on establishing a club with a set of values that Tasmanians will be proud to stand behind. This is Tasmania’s team, and we want to hear from Tasmanians – starting with our club name, brand and colours.”

Hockey Canada has named Katherine Henderson (pictured centre) as its next president and chief executive officer.

Henderson has spent the past seven years as the chief executive officer of Curling Canada, and is credited with driving a financial turnaround of the organisation’s business model.

Before joining Curling Canada, Henderson was the senior vice-president of marketing and revenue for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games organising committee where she helped the Games set attendance, ticket sales and television ratings records.

“The future of hockey is limitless,” said Henderson. “I am looking forward to working with our board and staff, our athletes, our members and local associations, our corporate and hockey partners, and our fans and participants to ensure that all Canadians have a personal hockey experience that is right for them.”

IOC Executive Board member Kristin Kloster will become the new chair of the coordination commission for the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics.

Kloster will replace Sari Essayah, who resigned from the position following her appointment as a minister in the new Finnish government.

Kloster was a member of the evaluation commission for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, and also brings the experience of having chaired the Future Host Commission for the Games of the Olympiad from 2019 until 2021.

Stephen A. Zito (pictured right) has been promoted to assistant director for convention and sports facilities at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Zito was previously general manager of the 64,000-capacity domed indoor multi-purpose stadium for more than six years.

The Dome, now home to UTSA football, the UIL State Basketball Tournament, the Valero Alamo Bowl, XFL spring football league and several headline events such as concerts and conventions, has held seven NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours, and will host the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2025.

“Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and energy to a position that requires both,” said Patricia Muzquiz Cantor, director for convention and sports facilities for the City of San Antonio. “The Alamodome ranks as one of the most diverse, popular entertainment venues in the country, and Steve’s leadership has been a critical part of that.”

Zito’s promotion was one of several personnel moves recently announced at the Alamodome. Michael Flores, who like Zito first began working at the Dome in 1993, has been elevated from facility business manager to general manager. Other recent hires include Victor Caballero as marketing manager and Troy Ragland as manager of public safety and transportation.

The National Cycling League (NCL) has recruited experienced sports veteran Andrea Pagnanelli as chief executive.

Pagnanelli joins with more than 15 years’ experience in the sports industry holding executive roles in the NFL, NBA, MLS, NWSL, and Relevent Sports.

Ten co-ed teams of professional cyclists, including NCL-owned teams—Denver Disruptors & Miami Nights—competed in the NCL’s first-ever race in Miami Beach on April 8. All 10 teams will compete in the second race in the criterium-style race series around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home to Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. The third and final race of its inaugural four-race series is set for Sunday, August 20 in Atlanta at the Porsche Experience Center.

Major League Pickleball (MLP) has named Julio DePietro as its new chief executive, with Bruce Popko becoming chief operating officer.

The pair will be tasked with leveraging their experience in finance, media, and sports business to grow new revenue streams, help MLP appeal to new audiences, and shepherd the sport into a new era.

DePietro was previously a partner at Citadel Investment Group and part-owner of MLP team Florida Smash.

Popko was previously chief operating officer for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills with Pegula Sports & Entertainment. In his time with Buffalo, he was also executive vice-president, business development and chief revenue officer.

“The additions of Julio and Bruce signify another landmark step forward in the evolution of Major League Pickleball,” said MLP founder Steve Kuhn. “They both bring an incredible pedigree, leadership ability, and valued perspective to MLP and the sport of pickleball. I know that their collective insights and experience will help us rapidly accelerate MLP’s continued growth and the overall popularisation of the sport.”

Do you have news of an appointment that we should know about? Get in touch by emailing news.editor@thestadiumbusiness.com and we’ll include it in our next round-up.