City of Phoenix better at hosting championships than winning them

Feb 5, 2023, 6:27 PM | Updated: Feb 6, 2023, 8:41 am

Valley sports fans must face a fundamental truth about life in Arizona: We are better at hosting championships than we are at winning championships.

This week is proof.

This week might also be the busiest, buzziest and most profitable week ever in our history as big-event hosts.

The WM Phoenix Open has never been more colossal. This year, the tournament is one of four PGA Tour events that come with elevated status and $20 million in prize money, more than double last year’s purse of $9 million. The field features nine of the Tour’s top 10 players, and the champion will earn a whopping $3.6 million.

Over 30 miles to the west, Super Bowl XVII will be staged in Glendale, the third NFL championship game to take place at State Farm Stadium. The first two were instant classics, and this year’s clash between the Eagles and the Chiefs brings two of the most loyal, passionate and emotionally invested fan bases in football.

The synergy of these two simultaneous events is more than regional flex. It’s more than a bubbling vat of civic pride. With 120,000 visitors expected for the Super Bowl, it is a time when dinner reservations are hard to find; tee times exceed $500 at premium courses and even low-budget hotels are commanding a king’s ransom.

In 2015, the Valley also hosted the Super Bowl and the WM Phoenix Open. But this feels much different. This feels much bigger.

“It absolutely feels bigger,” President and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Jay Parry said. “Looking back, 2015 was a big success for Arizona, a record-breaking effort for the NFL and our state. We’re trying to get our heads around how much bigger it is this time around. But our goal is still the same. To take our efforts and our game to the next level.”

Parry said the host committee needed $45 million to fulfill its obligations in 2023, a marked increase from the $28 million required in 2015. It requires the cooperation of nine municipalities. And the machinery that runs our Super Bowl operations in Arizona has proven to be reputable and reliable, delivering a destination city and great games every time. On Sunday, downtown Phoenix had already come alive with a celebration of football, in a city dressed up in roman numerals.

“We want this to be the best experience that people have had at a major event,” Parry said.

The WM Phoenix Open is treading new ground. They are an inaugural recipient of the PGA Tour’s elevated status program, which means they are now part of a business plan targeting a rival tour and a different set of roman numerals (LIV).

If they want to keep this lofty destination, the host Thunderbirds are under pressure to produce another sensational tournament, along with another great party that somehow stays on the rails.

The tournament does everything it can. Its ability to spot troublemakers on a golf course is elite, and given the new technology, I wouldn’t dare pick my nose anywhere near the TPC Scottsdale. And yet those in charge have no control over the most important factor of all: the weather.

In the end, it all feels bigger because these are two bucket list events happening at once, in our backyard. It feels bigger because the WM Phoenix Open’s status and footprint have expanded greatly since 2015, the last time the Super Bowl came to Arizona. The 16th hole is now one of the premiere locales in golf, and the addition of many other venues has greatly increased capacity for those looking to spend big money.

It’s all here now, with more arriving by the hour. Somebody is getting rich. Somebody is winning a big trophy. And by next Monday, we will have confirmed our status as host to the stars, the playground of champions.

Just not our own.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m.–10 a.m. on 98.7 FM.

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City of Phoenix better at hosting championships than winning them