Super Bowl week turns the Phoenix area into the Valley of Fun

The winter and spring months are the tourist season in Arizona, with visitors descending on the Valley of the Sun to escape the cold and enjoy the great outdoors.

The Super Bowl adds another layer of turmoil, the extra 100,000+ people packing bars, restaurants and parties across the desert.

Throw in the Phoenix Open, the PGA Tour version of a boozy grass mosh pit, and the Phoenix area turns into a week-long Valley of Fun.

“The buzz is definitely here,” said Jay Parry, president and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. “It will be bigger and better than the last one.”

The last one, in 2015, was a great success.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks played an epic Super Bowl that turned into a goal-line stand in the final seconds. The Phoenix Open had already established itself as the Greatest Show on Grass and Tiger Woods fueled the festivities by playing in the event for the first time since 2001.

This year’s Super Bowl has the makings of another memorable mix.

The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, looking to win their third championship overall, while the Philadelphia Eagles are vying for their second title in six years. It will also feature two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City and Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia.

The Sunday game is obviously the centerpiece, but the build-up is a week-long fun feast.

In previous Super Bowls, Glendale – where the stadium is located – Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix were the festive focal points. Revelry spread across the Valley for this year’s game.

The NFL and host committee have 20 sanctioned events in the four days leading up to the Super Bowl, part of more than 200 events in the Phoenix area.

This Super Bowl has not one, but two NFL Experience sites for fans. One is at the Phoenix Convention Center, where fans can kick goals, pass passes or run through a dummies challenge.

The Hance Park experience, on the north side of downtown, features nightly live music and an outdoor party that will include the largest video screens in Arizona. The Navy overpass for the game in Glendale will also pass through the park right after the national anthem.

“It’s amazing,” said Eagles fan Sean Duffy, who flew in from Philadelphia with his family to watch the game. “We go to every game and being here is great, especially the weather.”

So is music.

Rihanna is performing at halftime and will likely have a surprise guest or two. Country singer Chris Stapleton is singing the national anthem with Oscar-winning actor Troy Kotsur interpreting it in sign language. Babyface will sing “America The Beautiful”.

For those not going to the game, there are many other big names performing in the Valley such as Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, Paramore, Machine Gun Kelly, Dave Matthews Band, Tim McGraw and many more.

“This time around, fan interest in the Super Bowl was really high and being a part of it was amazing,” said Parry, who also attended the 2015 Super Bowl.

The Phoenix Open was added to this.

The tournament at TPC Scottsdale has transformed from just another west coast stop on the PGA Tour to the circuit’s party venue. Hundreds of thousands of fans descend on the desert course each year – a record 216,000 in 2018 – to cheer and jeer at decibel levels more suited to a football game.

The par 3 16th hole is the rowdy epicenter, a three-tiered cake of pandemonium with over 20,000 often drunk fans creating golf’s version of a party cruise.

The Phoenix Open has an even higher profile this year.

The PGA Tour raised the purses of four tournaments in response to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. The Phoenix Open is one of them, with a purse of $20 million and $3.6 million for the winner – up from last year’s $8.2 million and $1.4 million.

Another change: beer will be sold in glasses instead of cans on the 16th hole, after fans created a beer storm for a pair of aces.

Don’t expect this to lessen the turmoil.

“I don’t think it’s everybody’s favorite,” said PGA Tour player Jon Rahm, who played at nearby Arizona State. “I think you either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground. With my case, I love it.

Find something you don’t like about Phoenix this week, there’s probably something else just around the corner in the Valley of Fun.


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