Glendale Unveiled for XLII: Have a Bite of Desert

•  Stadium Guide | Buy tix | City Guide: Phoenix

You would think an area that touts itself as the Valley of the Sun, with 320 days of sunshine, would be used to heat. Well, it's about to get a lot hotter.

 Never has the sun shone so brightly here as it will for Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3.

Sure, Tempe hosted Super Bowl XXX in 1996, but 12 years later the Phoenix area has grown by more than a million people, added some 100 miles of highways and is building light rail transit. Meanwhile, Sky Harbor Airport has constructed an additional runway and control tower and now is one of the 10 busiest airports in the nation.

And that's to say nothing of Glendale's year-and-a-half-old University of Phoenix Stadium, with its retractable roof and rollout grass field. Indeed, the site of Super Bowl XLII was recently voted the best NFL stadium by Sports Business Journal.

Every city from Avondale to Youngtown hopes to cash in when the New England Patriots and New York Giants meet on the gridiron (purchase tickets). While the entire Valley of the Sun has coordinated its schedule to take advantage of the tremendous exposure leading up to Super Bowl XLII, Glendale is the city that has the most to gain.

"This is our day in the sun," said Julie Frisoni, communications director for the City of Glendale, not quite catching the irony in her statement.

To that end, Frisoni said the city adopted "Glendale's Got Game" (Web site) as its slogan for Super Bowl XLII, which was awarded to the city in 2003.

"It's easy for people to remember and it kind of captures what we are trying to do," Frisoni said. "We tried to anticipate as much as we could."

Glendale, about nine miles northwest of Phoenix, is fast becoming one of the nation's top draws for major sporting events, but it's not as if the Arizona Cardinals are the main reason. The Cardinals have been among the NFL's least popular teams (29th of 32) the past few years, according to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll.

Consider Glendale was mainly a bedroom community with scarce entertainment or attractive activities just a few years ago. The Westgate City Center development area has played a major role in that growth, featuring numerous new business and entertainment venues in Glendale, as well as marquee facilities in the University of Phoenix Stadium (click here for our Super Bowl Stadium Guide) and Jobing.com Arena, (9400 W. Maryland Ave., Web site), home to the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, coached by Wayne Gretzky.

"People tended to go elsewhere for activities, but there is a definite shift," Frisoni said.

Glendale arguably has become a bigger sporting draw than Phoenix, with an equal number of major-league teams and two top-of-the-line sports venues.

It's not like Glendale is a stranger to hosting big events. The University of Phoenix Stadium (home to 110 different events) was the site of the BCS National Championship Game last year, a week after the stadium hosted Boise State's thrilling overtime victory against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Moving forward, the stadium will host the BCS national championship every four years.

Still, Frisoni is quick to point out, "Nothing is like the Super Bowl."

In 2003, the city attracted the Phoenix Coyotes from downtown with the Jobing.com Arena, then known as the Glendale Arena. In August 2006, the University of Phoenix Stadium opened. Glendale also successfully negotiated to have the Los Angeles Dodgers move from "Dodgertown," their spring-training home in Vero Beach, Fla., the past 60 years. The Dodgers and Chicago White Sox will begin spring training in 2009 at a new 12,500-seat facility in Glendale that features 1 million square feet of commercial, office, restaurant, retail and mixed-use development space, in addition to a hotel and golf course.

But this week is for the Super Bowl. From attending art galleries to relaxing in a spa, the area has ample opportunities for the 125,000 expected visitors for the Super Bowl. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee (Web site) estimates those attending will contribute about $400 million to the area's economy.

That's easy to fathom considering the average price of the least expensive hotel runs about $230 per night. At least 19,000 rooms were booked by the NFL for media, players and personnel at set prices. But Arizona has no anti-gouging laws, and independent motels have no such rules, meaning latecomers are paying a hefty price. For example, one hotel chain offers a Phoenix-area room at $91 on Jan. 31, the Thursday before Super Sunday, and the following day the rate jumps to $500. The five- and six-fold increase seems typical and follows a trend south Florida had last year for Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

Local car-rental companies have tripled rates on Super Bowl weekend, and flights to Phoenix from the East Coast, where Giants and Patriots fans are planning trips, also are triple and quadruple the customary cost.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee plans to bid on the 2012 Super Bowl later this year. So it's anticipated that a strong performance this year will help the NFL make its decision, which could include an evaluation of what may be perceived as price gouging. Bob Sullivan, president of the host committee, has said he can't tell businesses what to do but hopes they use prudence and do not leave visitors with an unfavorable impression.

Besides the game itself, the NFL Experience (in the west parking lot adjacent to University of Phoenix Stadium, Web site) should draw the largest sports crowds. This is the 17th year the NFL has set up the interactive park and the activities include everything from testing skills to a card show to autograph signings by current and former NFL stars.

The PGA Tour's FBR Open will be played out Jan. 31 through Feb. 3 at TPC Scottsdale (17020 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, Web site). Admission for the golfing event starts at $25.

With more than 200 courses in the Valley of the Sun, recreational golfers have a wide array of choices to go clubbing. (Click here for our Ultimate Golf Getaway to Phoenix.)

The NBA's Suns are home during Super Bowl Week and meet the Hawks at 7 p.m. on Jan. 29, the defending-champion Spurs at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 31 and the Bobcats at 7 p.m. Feb. 4. The Suns play in downtown Phoenix at US Airways Arena (201 E. Jefferson St., Web site; purchase Suns tickets). Unfortunately for NHL fans, the Coyotes are on the road during Super Bowl Week. But if you really need a hockey fix, the hometown RoadRunners of the ECHL developmental league (and Arizona's first professional sports team, founded in 1967, Web site) host three games at US Airways Arena.

London's Run is a half-marathon, 10K run and 2-mile fun run Feb. 2 at 8 a.m. at Schnepf Farms (24810 S. Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek, Web site). The run – named after London Solomon, who died of leukemia in 2005 at age 6 – benefits Phoenix Children's Hospital's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Turf Paradise (1501 W. Bell Road, Phoenix, Web site), 14 miles northwest of downtown, offers horse racing every day except Wednesday and Thursday, with first post at 12:25 p.m.

Of course, Arizona means being in the desert, and the area captures this perfectly at the Desert Botanical Garden (1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Web site). Located about nine miles east of downtown and spread out over 50 acres, the floral facility has more than 20,000 plants, including 130 rare plant species. Nearby is the Phoenix Zoo (455 N. Galvin Parkway, Web site), a great kids' attraction that will feature Zooperbowl weekend activities Feb. 2-3, with special events and $2 off admission for anyone wearing NFL apparel.

Several hiking opportunities also are available in the area, including those found at South Mountain Park – at 16,500 acres and 11 miles across the largest municipal park in the nation (10919 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, Web site) – and Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale (Web site).

If you want to get away from the Super Bowl scene for a bit, try a day trip to picturesque Sedona, about two hours' drive north, or the Grand Canyon (a 4½-hour trip north), or south two hours to Tucson, home of the University of Arizona.

Most of the entertainment and nightlife will take place in three clusters – the Westgate City Center area of Glendale (Web site), Scottsdale (Web site) and Phoenix (Web site). And each municipality plans several special events (some free), including concerts, block parties and high-priced VIP parties.

"I think people are going to find Glendale to be an extremely sports-friendly and tourist-friendly city," Frisoni said. "We want to them to say it will be an experience like they have never had … ."

Super Bowl XLII Events Listings

From beach volleyball to rock concerts, dozens of events are scheduled throughout the Valley of the Sun for Super Bowl XLII. Here is a look at some of the public events that will keep the area hopping in the next week. All times are local (Mountain)

NFL Experience
• Jan. 26 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Jan. 27 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.), Jan. 31 (3 p.m. to 9 p.m.), Feb. 1 (3 p.m. to 10 p.m.), Feb 2 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and Feb. 3 (11 a.m.)
• West parking lot adjacent to the University of Phoenix Stadium, in Glendale
• 866-849-4635 | Web site
• Tickets are $17.50 for adults and $12.50 for children 12 and younger, and permit entry for a particular day and time. Tickets to NFLX After Dark, a three-hour football party for adults Jan. 31, from 9 p.m. to midnight, are $10. On Feb. 3, the event is open to Super Bowl XLII ticket holders only.
• The NFL Experience features more than 50 interactive games and attractions, everything from artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame to calling your own play-by-play. The interactive park will cover nearly 850,000 square feet. Participants will have the opportunity to run, pass, kick and punt, as well as experience similar training drills as the pros even hear NFL players read stories.
Fans may also have the opportunity to shake hands or receive a free autograph from as many as 50 players scheduled to appear at The Topps Super Bowl XLII Card Show, featuring 30,000 square feet of displays and merchandise, and rare collectibles.

Big Ticket Gala
• Jan. 30, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• The Phoenician
• 6000 E. Camelback Road, in Scottsdale
• 480-941-8200 | Web site
• Tickets for this black-tie event start at $1,250.
• Jay Leno will be the headline entertainment at the Host Committee's Big Ticket Gala. ESPN football anchor Chris Berman will emcee the event. The Big Ticket Gala will showcase the Hall of Fame's traveling exhibit of football memorabilia and will include a live and silent auction; among numerous other items, the auction will feature a Harley Davidson motorcycle autographed by Leno, former Raiders linebacker Howie Long, and other Hall of Famers in attendance.

AVP Crocs Super Court - Pro Beach Volleyball
• Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Feb. 3, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Westgate City Center, in Glendale (bound by Maryland Avenue on the south, Glendale Avenue on the north, the Loop 101 on the west, and 91st Avenue on the east)
• Web site
• A portion of Westgate City Center's parking area will be transformed into the Valley's largest beach party, as AVP Pro Beach Volleyball returns for an exhibition to create buzz for the upcoming season. Fans can watch exhibition matches with AVP pros and other celebrities, or try their own hand at beach volleyball skills. Free of charge.

Pepsi Smash Super Bowl Bash
• Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
• Jobing.com Arena
• 9400 W. Maryland Ave., in Glendale
• 480-784-4444 | Web site
• Tickets: $40
• Mary J. Blige and Maroon 5 headline the Pepsi Smash concert series on Jan. 31. RBD, Camila and Belinda perform on Feb. 1.

944 Magazine Party
• Jan. 31 through Feb. 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly
• Scottsdale Waterfront at Stetson Canal
• 7025 E. Via Soleri Drive, in Scottsdale
• Web site
•Tickets for daytime activities are free for Arizona residents and $5 for non-Arizona residents. Tickets for evening festivities range from $100 to $150 for general admission, and $500 to $750 for VIP.
• 944 Magazine is sponsoring five days and five nights of parties and festivals. During the day, the Scottsdale Waterfront at Stetson Canal will be a family-friendly destination offering food, musical entertainment, sports and celebrity meet-and-greets and autograph sessions during the day. In the evening, expect live music, charity fundraisers, art displays, fashion shows, world-class DJs and fireworks.

Super Bowl NFL Charities Celebrity Bowling Classic
• Jan. 31, 9 p.m.
• Christown AMF Bowling Lanes
• 1919 W. Bethany Home Road, in Phoenix
• Contact: Nick Nicolosi, 201-489-0049
• $500 donation to NFL Charities
• Each team of five will be led by a celebrity. Prizes will be awarded to members of the top three finishing teams in the bowling classic, and all bowlers will receive a commemorative Super Bowl XLII bowling ball and pin.

Glendale Chocolate Affaire
• Feb. 1 (noon to 10 p.m.) and Feb. 2 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
• Murphy Park, in downtown Glendale
• 623-930-2299 | Web site
• Chocolate lovers will be treated to more than three dozen chocolatiers selling various and sundry chocolate delights, as well as musical performances, romance novelists, activities for children and tours of Cerreta's Candy Company. Admission and parking are free.

Coors Light Craftsman Court Scottsdale Block Party
• Feb. 1-2, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. both nights
• Craftsman Court
• Between Third and Fifth avenues, in Scottsdale
• Web site
• Tickets: $35 to $50; more expensive for VIP.
• Boogie Nights and Otis Day and the Knights of "Animal House" fame will be performing. The Craftsman Court entertainment district, including old town bars Acme, Dos Gringos and Upper Deck, are transforming the street into a block party.

Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
• Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
• Phoenix Symphony Hall
• 75 N. Second St., in Phoenix
• 602-495-1999 | Web site
• Tickets: $25 to $50.
• Patti LaBelle, the Winans and Cedric the Entertainer are among the acts scheduled to perform at the fund-raiser, now in its ninth year at the Super Bowl. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local and national charities.

Super Bowl NFL Charities Celebrity Golf Classic
• Feb. 2, 10 a.m. $1,500 donation to NFL Charities
• The Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa
• 300 Wigwam Blvd., in Litchfield Park
• Contact Nick Nicolosi: 201-489-0049
• Event open only to participants of the celebrity/amateur golf tournament.

"ESPN The Magazine's" NEXT Big Weekend 2008
• Feb. 2, noon to 6 p.m. (Music starts at 4)
• Scottsdale Performing Arts Center
• 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., in Scottsdale
•  ESPN's Trey Wingo and Matthew Berry will host the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame official induction ceremony, featuring several members of this year's class. Grammy Award nominee Soulja Boy Tell'Em will take the stage to perform and hold a "Crank That" dance challenge with athletes. Also expect to see the newest innovations in sports, from pro batter simulators to future concept cars. Free of charge; all ages welcome.

Scottsdale Super ArtWalk
• Feb. 2, noon to 5 p.m.
• Scottsdale Arts District, in Scottsdale
• 480-990-3939 | Web site
• Galleries open to the public, host receptions and showcase new exhibits. Guests also can enjoy live music, food samples and drawings for prizes. Free of charge.

Super Bowl Saturday Night
• Feb. 2, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• Tempe Town Lake
• Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway, in Tempe
• The event will include live musical performances, headlined by Counting Crows, and appearances by NFL players, capped off fireworks. Free of charge.

Tony Guadagnoli, a free-lance writer from western Washington, contends the Super Bowl should rotate to non-dome, cold-weather sites, as well, starting with Lambeau Field … or, better yet,
go back in time and have it at "the Met" in Bloomington, Minn.

•  Stadium Guide | Buy tix | City Guide: Phoenix