(October 12, 2011) When the Valley hosts the Super Bowl in 2015, it will be the game's third visit to Arizona.
But the delegation that persuaded the National Football League on Tuesday to send the game West notes the Valley has come a long way since 2008, when the game was here last.
Consider what's happened in that time.
The Metro light rail opened in late 2008, offering a spine of connectivity from Phoenix to Mesa. The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel opened in the latter half of that year, making up part of the 1,500 hotel rooms built downtown since then, while 25 downtown Phoenix restaurants debuted. A year later, an expansion tripled the size of the Phoenix Convention Center.
That growth helped sway the 32 NFL team owners gathered in Houston to choose Arizona over Tampa to host Super Bowl XLIX, said Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill.
"We have a great stadium. Our hotel, resort and tourism infrastructure is really unparalleled, and since 2008, great new amenities have been built, particularly in downtown Phoenix," he said.
The Super Bowl will be held at University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, but organizers say many of the festivities leading up to the game will be centered on downtown Phoenix.
The plan alleviated concerns NFL owners had during Super Bowl XLII in 2008 that in the week leading up to the game, events were spread too far around the Valley.
Some events expected to move downtown include the concert and festival area called Super Bowl Village, which were previously on the Scottsdale Waterfront, and the Super Bowl Friday Night dance party that was held near Tempe Town Lake.
Other events will remain in their previous locations, such as the NFL Experience outside the stadium in Glendale.
"This is going to come at a great time for our local community and give us the ability to really rally around a great, big event," Bidwill said. "It's going to be huge for tourism, our economic development and our visibility not only in the United States but around the world."
He and others said the game and the glitz surrounding it would provide a much-needed jolt to the state. One economist estimated the economic impact could reach $600 million, while a tourism representative said the impact ripples beyond the game.
Steve Moore, head of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, expects more convention groups to choose the Valley after seeing that the region can host a huge event like the Super Bowl.
Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs celebrated the game's return. "We hope this is just the second of many, many Super Bowls" in Glendale, she said.
The Arizona host committee beat out Tampa for football's biggest party, after promising the league that Super Bowl XLIX would exceed the state's blockbuster in 2008.
Bidwill called it a "fierce competition," and noted his "soft spot" for Tampa since the Cardinals played their first Super Bowl there in 2009.
Tampa's efforts included purchasing billboards around Houston for NFL owners to see touting its beaches and warm weather. Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls, in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009, to Arizona's two, in 1996 and 2008.
Arizona had its own flourish. The host committee gave the team owners iPads to view the bid. Each had a keyboard emblazoned with the owner's team logo.
The decision took two rounds of voting. Neither region got a supermajority needed to win in the first round of voting, but Arizona snagged it in the second round, which required at least 17 votes.
"That moment felt like a 55-yard field goal at the end of the game with the wind blowing. My heart was racing," Bidwill said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell praised both bids.
"It was a difficult choice," he said. "But we're thrilled to be back in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX."
Bidwill said it was time for Arizona to host the game again. The region unsuccessfully bid on the 2012 and 2013 games, which went to Indianapolis and New Orleans, respectively. Arizona sat out of last year's bidding.
Mike Kennedy, chairman of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, said the group marshaled forces in Arizona to put together a solid bid. The host committee got cities to sign off on financial support, such as providing public-safety services, and got hotels and resorts to agree to established rates.
"There aren't many bigger economic engines out there to attract to a region," he said. "Arizona could use a win, and we got one."
-- Courtesy of the Arizona Republic
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