In 2008, millions converged on Glendale as the place to be for Super Bowl XLII. The NFL Experience was there. The game was there.
Fast forward to 2015, and the picture was very different.
While the game was still held at University of Phoenix Stadium, the party moved to downtown Phoenix, where 1.2 million people went through the area for the NFL Experience and Verizon Super Bowl Central.
“During the week, downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale were where all the parties were at,” said Scott McIntire, general manager of McFadden’s in the Westgate Entertainment District.
“I think it’s good that downtown gets something because we have one of the slower downtowns, but I wish we would have the NFL Experience out here.”
McFadden’s was one of several businesses in Glendale that saw a huge boost in sales during Super Bowl week. Westgate saw a 350 percent increase in business, according to Jean Moreno, program administrator of economic development for the city of Glendale. One business even saw a 720 percent increase versus traffic in a typical week.
While this was a good sign, other business owners felt the impact of those bigger events cut in to what would have been an even bigger payday.
“It was huge,” said Emily Freeman, general manager of The Shout House in Westgate. “Not having the NFL Experience in Glendale hurt us a lot.”
In Glendale, the city is already looking ahead to putting in a new bid for the big game. One area of focus will be the relationship between the city and the league. The two did not see eye to eye on several issues. Neither did Mayor Jerry Weiers with the state Legislature.
Weiers said before the game the city was due to lose $1.2 million from hosting the game. He sought funding from the Legislature to cover public safety costs. With the College Football Playoff Championship National Championship Game and the Final Four coming to Glendale in the next two years, the money becomes an even greater priority.
“If I had my way,” Weiers said, “we’d have the Super Bowl every year providing that we can get it worked out to where public safety costs are picked up and shared by everybody that benefits from the Super Bowl so that our city isn’t providing all of the costs and getting the smallest amount of benefits.”
Another aspect of building that relationship is through community engagement.
“The overall sentiment here in Glendale is that the community likes to feel involved in the process,” said Gregory Walsh, director of marketing and communications for the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. “We know we are capable of hosting these huge events, but we want to be a part of a mutually beneficial relationship with the NFL and other host committees.”
Building that relationship is something McIntire also wants to see done for his business’ sake as well as Glendale’s.
“I hope that Glendale can get it worked out with (Arizona Cardinals president Michael) Bidwill or do whatever has to happen in order to get the NFL Experience back out here,” McIntire said. “I was down in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, and I was able to park, walk to the NFL Experience, to the bars and to the venue all within that area. Phoenix is so spread out that you can’t do that.”
It’s 17 miles from downtown Phoenix to University of Phoenix Stadium, and the primary way to get between the two is by car. That distance, combined with other factors, made local residents wary of taking part in the Super Bowl experience.
“I just didn’t want to be in the traffic,” said Mike Klenofsky of Sun City. “If it (Super Bowl Central) wasn’t in downtown Phoenix, that might have been more of an option for me to go.”
While there is demand for a more centralized area in Glendale, as it was in 2008, city representatives say it may not be in Glendale’s best financial interest.
“For the NFL, there are significant infrastructure requirements that have to be met,” Moreno said. “We don’t have any plans for convention spaces for other events. It’s a regional event, and it wouldn’t be financially prudent for Glendale to do so.”
This Super Bowl saw an emphasis on regional cooperation. For future events, that appears to becoming more of the norm.
“You see with New York and Jersey, San Francisco and Santa Clara, more committees are taking on a regional approach to hosting these big events,” Moreno said. “It’s tough for one city to take on that kind of infrastructure.”
Still, it’s an issue that is too important to ignore.
“It’s what we live and die for are the events out here.” McIntire said. “We don’t have the regular traffic, summer gets a little bit hot, but this is a sports area.”