Among those who played a part in hosting the major recent sporting events (from left): Tom Sadler, President and CEO of Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority; Cardinals President Michael Bidwill; Governor Doug Ducey; Debbie Johnson, Executive Director of the Office of Tourism; and Dan Lewis, President and CEO of Native Insight.
When construction on a new football stadium began more than a decade ago, Michael Bidwill had big dreams.
The Cardinals' president wanted a state-of-the-art home for the team, but also a facility to showcase some of the world's biggest sporting events. That vision turned to reality, as University of Phoenix Stadium recently capped off an unprecedented three-year stretch in which it hosted the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, a college football national championship game and the Final Four.
The four marquee events generated $1.3 billion in economic impact, according to a study completed by the Seidman Research Institute, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
"There were a lot of hopes and expectations, and I couldn't be more proud of the progress we made," Bidwill said. "We envisioned it to be an economic engine, and it truly has been."
The Final Four was the most recent of the events, and it brought $324.5 million into the local economy, the largest non-Super Bowl event impact in Arizona history, according to the study. Nearly 60,000 visitors took a trip to Arizona for the Final Four, staying an average of 4.16 nights and spending an average of $487.19 per day, per the study.
The presence of the major sporting events in Arizona was looked upon favorably by residents. According to a Nielsen Sports online survey of 1,540 Phoenix-area residents, 90 percent said the three-year run had a positive impact on the community, and 78 percent said the 2017 Final Four provided opportunities for local businesses and increased tourism.
It didn't hurt that many of the games were classics. Super Bowl XLIX featured the unforgettable interception by Malcolm Butler at the goal-line to give the Patriots the title over the Seahawks in 2015.
The college football national championship game in 2016 was tied in the fourth quarter, and Alabama outlasted Clemson, 45-40. The Final Four in April featured three games decided by six points or fewer, with North Carolina rallying in the last two minutes to beat Gonzaga for the national title.
"When it comes to hosting iconic sporting events, nobody – and I mean nobody – does it better than the state of Arizona," Governor Doug Ducey said. "And no place is a better venue than University of Phoenix Stadium."
Ducey said pairing competitive contests with an ideal setup leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
"I think it makes a difference," Ducey said. "I think, one, the fans that make the trip here remember that experience, and then we have such a beautiful setting at those times of year. In January, February, March we really shine. It has a lot of people saying 'I'd rather live there' and you can see Maricopa County and Phoenix's growth numbers."
It has been 11 years since University of Phoenix Stadium opened, and in that time its estimated economic impact has been valued at more than $5 billion.
There aren't plans to slow down. Arizona has hosted three Super Bowls – one at Sun Devil Stadium and the past two at University of Phoenix Stadium – and while Bidwill said the competition is tough, he is working hard to bring the game back to the state.
"We've got a lot of great venues and a lot of great communities (in the NFL)," Bidwill said. "Phoenix is one of those. Getting the game back to Arizona is definitely something everybody wants to do. I'll be doing my part to lobby the other owners to make sure we land them. I'm confident we'll get one sometime soon down the line. I just can't say when."