From airports to Old Town, Super Bowl’s presence will be felt throughout Valley

Signage to promote the 2023 Super Bowl can be found throughout the Valley, including in Old Town Scottsdale. (Photo by Nikash Nash/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – On Feb. 12, Arizona will host its fourth Super Bowl, the third for State Farm Stadium. Experience is helping the Valley prepare for the surge in travelers and event-goers.

The day after the 2015 Super Bowl set a single-day record for passengers traveling through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at an estimated 175,000, said Tamra Ingersoll, the airport’s public information manager. It anticipates a similar situation in 2023.

“Feb. 13, the day after the big game, will likely be the busiest day of the year,” she said.

Following the AFC and NFC championship games Sunday, several airlines increased the number of flights from Philadelphia and Kansas City to Phoenix, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, Sky Harbor’s largest carriers.

The airport is also anticipating a significant increase in ride share activity and has preparations in place to deal with extra traffic.

But the Super Bowl’s grip on the Valley has already left fingerprints on several areas, particularly downtown Phoenix, where several blocks have been closed to traffic in order to prepare for the Super Bowl Experience presented by Lowe’s held at the Phoenix Convention Center for this weekend and from Feb. 9-11.

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Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, is set to host Super Bowl Opening Night presented by Fast Twitch Monday, when the teams will make their only public appearance together in Arizona before the Super Bowl. Thousands of fans will be able to watch live interviews, secure autographs and view live entertainment at the event meant to kickoff events organized by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.

Another experience produced by the NFL is in Margaret T. Hance Park from Thursday through Feb. 12, when fans can take part in family friendly activities and watch live entertainment for free. The park will also host a live watch party of the Super Bowl during the game on Feb. 12.

Even those in downtown not attending these events will see the distinctive mark of the NFL’s premier matchup all over town, with large building-side advertisements found everywhere, from the Phoenix Public Library to Arizona Center. Some of the ads are promoting the game, others are showcasing brands like Verizon or Bud Light along with Super Bowl branding.

If those aren’t enough of a reminder, banners depicting “LVII” or “Super Bowl” along with this year’s teal and red color scheme can be found all over the Valley hanging from light poles to further promote the big game.

The Valley is also facing a unique challenge in the way of tourism, as the Super Bowl is not alone in terms of events in early February. The fan-favorite Waste Management Phoenix Open will also pack hotels and flights and place further pressure upon cities like Scottsdale to provide ways to accommodate residents.

The 2015 intersection of these events resulted in the second-highest occupancy rate Scottsdale had ever seen the night before the Super Bowl, with 97.5% of hotel rooms in the city being filled, said Stephanie Pressler of Experience Scottsdale. Over the entire weekend, Scottsdale hotels saw an average occupancy rate of 96.9%, a 32% increase over the same period in 2014.

Experience Scottsdale is working closely with Scottsdale and the NFL to create Super Bowl experiences in the city as part of “Scottsdale Super Season,” which encompasses promoting events all over Scottsdale through the end of March.

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“Even though the game is played in Glendale, Scottsdale really can capture that spotlight,” Pressler said.

The Old Town ESPN Main Street Tailgate is just one of many events in Scottsdale centering around the game. The event will be host to ESPN’s live Super Bowl coverage. ESPN will broadcast “NFL Live” and “NFL Sunday Countdown” on Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale from Wednesday to Feb. 12.

Karen Churchard, the director of tourism and events for Scottsdale, said planning goes back to 2018, when cities would begin preparing for the NFL’s takeover five years later.

“You know, you can kind of say, ‘We’ve got company coming in.’ It’s like your own house. You know people are coming so you’re going to clean things, make them look better and maybe plant some new flowers,” Churchard said. “So we talked about everything from simple things like decomposed granite being refilled, or landscapes and signage being fixed to painting things.”

Although the Super Bowl is expected to have a strong economic impact, perhaps more than the $720 million brought in to the state by the 2015 Super Bowl, Churchard said that the local spending during this high-traffic period was not the biggest benefit of the event.

“To me, it’s about really representing the region, the metropolitan Phoenix region and putting in it a really good light that we can host these types of mega events and that we are a destination collectively that people want to come to,” Churchard said. “Our tourism industry understands that you can’t even put a price tag on the marketing that we’re receiving from, not just not just from the game, but ESPN. … We’re going to get a huge benefit from that.“

Several more events can be found in familiar places for Phoenix residents, including NFL Honors in Phoenix’s Symphony Hall, Shaq’s Fun House and Gronk Beach at Talking Stick Resort and the Play Football Family Festival at Hamilton High School.

The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has organized an array of activities in every corner of the Valley to allow fans of all ages and interests to get involved with the largest single-game sporting event the United States will see all year.

Aidan Richmond AY-dun RICH-muhnd (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aidan Richmond expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in Japanese. Richmond, who is assigned to Cronkite Sports this semester, interned as a technical director and contributor for Varsity Sports Show.

Nikash Nath nih-KAUSH nath
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Nikash Nath expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Nath, who is assigned to the Cronkite sports bureau this semester, has interned with Arizona Sports and Times Media Group.