College Football Playoff National Championship using Super Bowl XLIX as blueprint

The Championship Campus is an indoor and outdoor fan experience in downtown Phoenix, similar to Super Bowl Central area. (Photo by Aimee Cash/Cronkite News)

Organizers of the College Football Playoff National Championship are using Super Bowl XLIX as a blueprint as they prepare for events surrounding their game, scheduled Jan. 11 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Super Bowl brought in more than $700 million to the Valley, according to a study from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The Arizona Organizing Committee for the college championship game is hoping to achieve a similar level of success come January.

“We watched closely with what they did and they did a fantastic job,” said Brad Wright, co-chair of the Arizona Organizing Committee. “We tried to learn some of the things that worked well, like the downtown campus, like the CEO program and trying to do our best to take those up a notch.”

The Championship Campus is an indoor and outdoor fan experience in downtown Phoenix, similar to Super Bowl Central. Playoff Fan Central will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center with an outdoor stage nearby for live music events, along with interactive fan activities, food, games and more, all in a three-day period leading up to the game.

Championship Campus is slightly smaller than Super Bowl Central, at eight city blocks closed off compared to the 12 blocks closed for the Super Bowl. Like Super Bowl Central, Championship Campus is free to enter, but Playoff Fan Central at the Championship Campus will cost $12 for adults, $7 for children, seniors and military, and $5 per person in groups of 20 or more. That’s cheaper than Super Bowl Central’s NFL Experience, which cost $35 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under.

The CEO program aims to attract up to 50 CEOs of targeted companies from around the country and entertain them in Arizona for the game, showing them why the Valley is a great place to operate a business, to live and to work. A similar program during Super Bowl week brought in about 60 CEOs.

“Our goal is engaging local business through the CEO program and through other events activating here in the Championship Campus,” Wright said. “So we’re working closely with local businesses and hope that everybody gets a chance to be involved.”

Local cities have worked together to successfully bid on large events like these for Arizona.

“These events require a significant amount of convention space that we just don’t have here in Glendale, and if it was just Glendale, as an example going after these bids, we simply don’t have the venues and the facilities to accommodate it,” said Jean Moreno, program administrator of economic development for the city of Glendale. “So working together as a region, that’s where we really shine, because we’re able to do something here in Maricopa County that creates economic benefits for our entire state.”

It has been a long process of setting up and preparing for the arrival of the madness that will be the College Football Playoff National Championship and Glendale has been involved the entire way. Glendale, Phoenix and other Valley cities have worked together to attract these major events to Arizona. The team effort presents an overall greater picture and more to offer than if one city tried to go it alone.

“When we’re looking at this opportunity, we actually participate on a regional level,” Moreno said. “So we work with our partners, the Arizona Commerce Authority and GPEC (the Greater Phoenix Economic Council), to really make sure that we’re showcasing the entire region and not just focusing on a specific entity.”

Super Bowl XLIX also spread events across Scottsdale, downtown Phoenix and, of course, Glendale for the game itself. It allowed visitors to get a good look at some of what Arizona had to offer, just like the College Football Playoff National Championship will.

“From our perspective, what’s really unique about what our region has to offer is because even though we’re in different cities, we have the best of both worlds to offer these folks that are looking for places to come in and host these major events,” Moreno said.

University of Phoenix Stadium can seat about 72,000 people and Debbie Johnson, director at the Arizona Office of Tourism, said they’re expecting another 25,000 to 40,000 people outside the stadium participating in the tailgate and other activities around the Westgate Entertainment District.

While the college championship game has brought the same intensity and event preparation as Super Bowl XLIX, those involved say the college game has a flair that the Super Bowl could not provide.

“I think that the three events that we’re having three years in a row, the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff, and the (2017 NCAA) Final Four, all have different crowds,” Johnson said. “I think this crowd is really about a fan base. It’s going to be about the fans of the two teams that are coming to play. It’s their students, and it’s their alumni, and it’s all the fans that have kind of been those life-long fans. That’s what makes this game so exciting.”