Owner Bill Bidwill (center), flanked (left to right) by sons Michael, Tim, Patrick and grandson Tommy, was inducted to the Flagstaff Hall of Fame Tuesday.
FLAGSTAFF – Bill Bidwill's team brought fans together from all over the state of Arizona last season during the Cardinals' run to the Super Bowl.
His team has meant even more than that to Flagstaff over the past couple of decades, with the franchise heading to the northern Arizona city for training camp.
Because of that, the city and Northern Arizona University honored the team owner by inducting him into the Flagstaff Sports Foundation Hall of Fame Tuesday night.
The Cardinals have "done wonderful things for the community," Flagstaff Sports Foundation president John Birkett said.
"It's a two-way street," Bidwill said. "Flagstaff has done a great job for us. The facilities at NAU are ideal, the location is ideal, there is a dome when it rains, and they have been good to us here. It's also a nice place for people in the Valley to get out of the heat and watch practice."
Only half the NFL teams hold training camp away from their regular-season facilities, a number dwindling every year. The Cardinals obviously benefit by getting the players out of the scorching heat of the Valley, but both the city of Flagstaff and NAU seem to understand they are fortunate to have an NFL team return year after year.
The Cardinals are in the middle of their 21st camp up north.
"We just wanted to thank Mr. Bidwill and his family for his 20 years of training camp in Flagstaff," Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Julie Pastrick. "It's really made a tremendous impact on the economy and the business community.
"The media comes to us constantly and asks people, what's good about camp? … Just look at the double-truck in Sports Illustrated."
The double-truck Pastrick referred to was a two-page-wide picture in SI back in 2003, when the magazine came to do a story on running back Emmitt Smith and featured a gorgeous wide shot of the team practicing with the trees and mountains in the background. The exposure, of course, wouldn't have been possible without the football team's presence.
Bidwill said when the team moved to Arizona, the camp in Flagstaff was one of a couple of possible camp sites.
"We came up, looked it over, and decided this would be best for the franchise," Bidwill added.
According to an NAU press release, the Cardinals are "directly responsible for bringing millions of dollars of economic activity to the community."
"On top of the fun and excitement, team trips to Northern Arizona University and Flagstaff help bolster the economy of the northern Arizona region, something for which businesses and workers are very appreciative," NAU president John Haeger said.
Bidwill will be inducted into a class that includes the 1989 Coconino High School basketball team; the 1955 Flagstaff High School basketball team; Walter McDonald, a long-time Flagstaff businessman who was drafted into pro football in 1946; and Danny Neal Jr., a long-time youth sports advocate in the Flagstaff area.