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Suns, Diamondbacks planning to light up downtown Phoenix
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Suns, Diamondbacks planning to light up downtown Phoenix

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns have formed a partnership to create an atmosphere in downtown Phoenix mindful of New York City’s Times Square and Las Vegas.

The Legends Entertainment District will offer nearly 50,000 square feet of unique marketing opportunities with a blend of digital signage and super-graphic static billboards, including the largest signage available anywhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Officials said the project is the first of its kind between two professional organizations.

“The new Legends Entertainment District, an attraction in itself, will help connect all the other downtown attractions, assuring visitors a more memorable and exciting downtown experience,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “Instead of heading home after a sporting event, concert or meal, visitors will want to stick around and continue enjoying downtown, thus bringing revenue to our city. This creative partnership is a win-win for all.”

The Legends Entertainment District was strategically planned to encompass landmark downtown facilities such as US Airways Center and Chase Field where more than 700 downtown events are held each year.

“The unique working relationship shared by the Suns and D-backs expands the value of associating brands with our teams,” said Suns President and CEO Rick Welts. “The Legends Entertainment District creates outdoor marketing opportunities that extend the reach of our partners beyond the walls of our playing facilities in the regions busiest corridor.”

The signage is to be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting in the second quarter of 2011.

“The look and feel associated with the Legends Entertainment District will enhance the experience for sports fans and others attending more than 700 downtown events as the vibrant signage will continue to increase traffic for local businesses and restaurants,” said D-backs’ President and CEO Derrick Hall. “More than 100,000 people will attend downtown events associated with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Chase Field in July 2011, putting the Legends Entertainment District on a global stage when viewers around the world tune in to watch the historic game.”

The Legends Entertainment District extends from First Avenue to Seventh Street, between Washington and Jackson Streets. It includes two METRO Light Rail stations, providing easy accessibility to the area.

Judd Norris, general manager of Legends Entertainment District, said, “The City of Phoenix has given us a blank canvas to work with. The Legends marketing partners will have the ability to push the envelope and create marketing concepts that have never been seen before in our downtown. The goal of the Legends Entertainment District is to push the limits of what is new and fresh in the marketing community.”

According to The Arizona Republic, the district will have electronic billboards four to five stories tall. Giant LED TVs could cover the sides of buildings, and animated advertisements may promote products or downtown businesses.

The aim is to create more energy to encourage people to linger outside the major stadium events to shop, eat and drink downtown.

The city, the Suns and the Diamondbacks all stand to gain financially from the initiative. Additional retail sales downtown would bring additional sales-tax dollars for Phoenix. The teams would earn money from ad sales and sponsorships.

City and team officials say they do not know how much revenue the district could generate. But experts told The Republic such districts can increase revenues by millions of dollars as they spur economic growth around them.

Jeff Soule, a planner and outreach director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Planning Association, said entertainment and signage districts have been around for years, but more recently, they have been defined as an area surrounding sports entertainment centers, stadiums or arenas.

“It’s a place where you can capitalize on foot traffic and try to keep people in the downtown longer,” Soule said. “It’s good for tax revenues obviously, sales tax or whatever.”

Other experts are more skeptical. An entertainment district doesn’t always catch visitor interest and increase foot traffic, said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. He said he knows of entertainment districts in Richmond, Va., and Louisville, Ky., that have collapsed.

The Phoenix City Council and Planning Department approved zoning changes in 2009 to allow development of the district.

The Republic said that a group that had planned a separate entertainment district for downtown, the Jackson Street Entertainment District, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The 12-acre district was proposed as a mix of nightclubs, restaurants, and commercial and residential space.