PHOENIX (AP) — Tiger Woods will tee off his season in front of 200,000 golf fans and an estimated million people will flock to a revived Phoenix downtown for NFL events.
A pair of NBA games will be played in the heart of it all. Concerts abound and there will be parties galore.
Oh yes, there’s a football game, too. Although the Super Bowl is actually being played 30 minutes away in suburban Glendale.
Super Bowl week is always a spectacle. With the addition of golf’s biggest name in its most raucous tournament, the scene in and around Phoenix this week should be even crazier. For a few days, what once was a desert wasteland is the center of the sports and entertainment world.
“It kind of puts us on the map,” Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “It kind of gives us that networking that we don’t have like other teams — the Dallas Cowboys or the New York teams. Everybody can see what the state is all about.”
The fun will stretch from Glendale to the west to Scottsdale in the east.
The epicenter is downtown Phoenix, where 12 blocks have been cordoned off for a myriad of Super Bowl activities and displays. Thanks to a temporary law change, fans can wander through with open containers of alcohol.
A few steps away is the NFL Experience, billed as the league’s interactive theme park, set up in the Phoenix Convention Center.
Walk a block or so, and there’s US Airways Center, where the ever-entertaining, often-bizarre Media Day was held on Tuesday, with fans able to witness it for $28.50 a pop. The arena swings back into its usual purpose on Wednesday night, when the Washington Wizards play the Suns. Friday night, the Chicago Bulls are in town.
Scottsdale has a party scene any weekend. Super Bowl weekend it goes over the top. Streets around the clubs will be blocked off with Maxim and Rolling Stone among those hosting gatherings.
In north Scottsdale there will be a giant party that happens to have a golf tournament running through the middle of it.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, played on the spacious TPC Scottsdale course, has by far the biggest crowds on the PGA tour, with Saturday always the party day. Now that Woods is playing in the tournament for the first time in 14 years, it should be even more crowded, as hard as that is to imagine. Tournament officials have said more than 200,000 are expected this Saturday.
Among those performing somewhere around town will be Lil Wayne, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker, Imagine Dragons and Kevin Hart. Rihanna has an invitation-only gig in Glendale on Saturday night.
And, of course, Katy Perry will perform at halftime on Sunday.
The Pro Bowl kicked everything off.
Usually played in Hawaii, it was moved for this one season to the site of the Super Bowl. A sellout crowd of 63,225 packed the Sunday night event.
This will be the third Super Bowl for the Phoenix area. The first was in 1996 at Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. In 2008, the game was played at University of Phoenix Stadium, with the New York Giants stunning previously unbeaten New England.
At the time, downtown Phoenix was entangled in scaffolding for one project after another.
For the Super Bowl to return, it’s an upgrade that was essential.
“It’s really been the $44 billion development to the downtown Phoenix area,” said Devney Preuss, senior director off the Arizona Super Bowl host committee. “That created a downtown area that’s primed and ready for an event like this.”
Hotels and restaurants were built. The convention center was expanded. A light rail line opened from Mesa to downtown.
Now more big games are on the way.
Next January, the college football championship game is in Glendale. The following year, it’s a college football playoff semifinal game. And in spring of 2017, the stadium hosts the Final Four.
For the Phoenix area, it seems, the party’s just begun.
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