PHOENIX — The Cactus Bowl will remain at Chase Field through at least 2019, Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Mike Nealy said Tuesday.
Including this year’s game between UCLA and Kanas State on Tuesday, the game has been staged at Chase for the past three years after moving from Sun Devil Stadium while that venue underwent renovations. The contract at Chase was due to expire this year but bowl officials exercised an option before the Dec. 1 deadline to remain downtown.
Ongoing renovations at Sun Devil Stadium and the success of the game in central Phoenix were two of the biggest factors in the decision, Nealy said. Sun Devil Stadium recently entered the final phase of its renovations with the majority of that phase expected to be complete by the start of the 2018 college football season. Additional interior finishing will take place in 2019, however.
“I think ASU could have handled us next year and I think we could have made it work out, but they’re not quite done with everything so as we talked through it with the group here and at ASU, it made sense to stay here for the two more years after this and then we’ll see,” Nealy said. “The two years will come up pretty quick and there will be a lot of conversations with (Vice President for University Athletics) Ray Anderson and ASU. You can’t go wrong at either venue.
“ASU has put a lot of effort into the renovations of Sun Devil Stadium. They have programmed that facility for a lot of events, 365 days a year, so I’m sure they’d love to have a marquee event like ours and I’m not against that at all.”
When asked about the Cactus Bowl returning to ASU, Anderson deferred to the current agreement.
“Not currently in our thinking,” he said via text message. “ASU is a close partner with the City of Phoenix and Sun Devil Athletics supports the partnership fully.”
The Cactus Bowl was born as the Copper Bowl in 1989 and was played at Arizona Stadium in Tucson until 2000, when bowl organizers moved the game to Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field). In 2006, the game moved back to Sun Devil Stadium to replace the Fiesta Bowl, which moved west to University of Phoenix Stadium.
The game has undergone several name and sponsorship changes over the years. The Copper Bowl secured Domino’s Pizza and Weiser Lock as title sponsors. The game was also called the Insight.com or Insight Bowl from 1997-2011. It was the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl from 2012-13. It became the TicketCity Cactus Bowl for one year before Motel 6 replaced TicketCity as title sponsor for two years.
This year’s game has no title sponsor.
“We’re fortunate in that we fill the place up and that’s not a given these days,” Nealy said of the game at Chase. “But we’re going to have another venue in town at ASU that’s going to have shiny new seats and amenities so to have a game there would also be great.
“Heck, maybe we should bring another game to the Valley. We surely could do that. We have the group to do it and sometimes it’s less work when it’s a similar format, times three.”
Nealy cautioned that it is far too early to consider such a possibility, but he also made it clear he wasn’t joking about bringing another game to the Valley.
“We’ve done it before in the BCS days when the championship game was played here so I know we could do it, but we’ll see. A lot would have to happen,” he said.
“It doesn’t seem to be the trend to be adding bowl games these days, but we’re not the average bowl that’s out there. I think we do things a lot better than a lot of the bowls and we show them we’re very proud of what we do at the Fiesta Bowl and at the next tier level with the Cactus Bowl. Could we do another one? I’m sure we could.
“The teams and the conferences want to come here. We’ve had conversations where people say, ‘if there’s a choice, we’d love to be there.’ As far as destinations and the hospitality we’re known for and then the weather, this is high on the list for people.”