By Glenn Hamer
President & CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce
When Clemson and Alabama met in the College Football Championship on Jan. 11, the two teams and their fans contributed to Arizona’s national reputation as America’s best sports tourism market.
We have teams from four big-time professional sports that call Arizona home, one of which is in the NFL playoffs and has the entire state buzzing.
After a 2015 that featured a Super Bowl that was a smashing success, consider what 2016 offers:
- The Fiesta Bowl – The bowl game that put the Valley of the Sun on the sports map back in 1971 is considered one of the bowl season’s best, offering great weather, outstanding facilities and a level of hospitality that can’t be matched. The Fiesta Bowl’s reputation as a top-notch production earned it a spot in the College Football Playoff rotation, ensuring Arizona’s place as a magnet for out-of-town fans.
- The College Football Championship – Monday’s game marked only the second time a playoff system was used to determine the college football playoff championship. All collegiate football fans’ eyes were on Arizona, and the television broadcast reached millions of people around the world, who were treated to images of Arizona’s beautiful landscape. The championship game was preceded by four days of festivities; all of this produced a big economic impact. The W. P. Carey School at ASU estimates the combined impact of previous college championship games in Arizona at nearly $650 million. An event of this magnitude doesn’t happen without a team of outstanding professionals committed to putting on a good show. Major kudos are due to Brad Wright and Win Holden, the co-chairs of the Arizona Organizing Committee, who did a tremendous job galvanizing the community around the game.
- Waste Management Phoenix Open – Dubbed “The Greatest Show on Grass” and “The People’s Open,” this golf tournament draws over a half-million spectators and is known throughout the PGA Tour for its raucous crowds, national performing acts every night at the Birds Nest and a 16th hole unlike any other in golf. It also has a big economic impact. Studies have estimated that nearly 30% of ticket sales go to attendees from out of town, guests who spend around $300 a day in the local economy.
- Spring Training – The jewel in Arizona’s sports tourism crown, the Cactus League, brings to Arizona visitors from throughout the country who come to town to see half of Major League Baseball’s teams, including the World Series champs Kansas City Royals. Last year we set the all-time attendance record. Spring Training happens at a time of year when folks around the country are ready to thaw out, and fans come by the millions to watch today’s stars and tomorrow’s prospects in first-class facilities that are all within an easy drive of one another.
And we aren’t finished. In 2017, spring brings even more offerings, with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four coming to Phoenix. This will be a weeklong celebration of basketball that will be the first Final Four west of Texas since 1995.
All of these events have helped to solidify Arizona’s place as a sports tourism Mecca, and they contribute to the nearly 200,000 jobs that depend on tourism. We are fortunate to have tourism leaders in Arizona who are the envy of the country, including Arizona Office of Tourism Director Debbie Johnson and Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Moore.
We’re in the midst of Arizona’s time to shine. It’s our season.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce