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Big Events Put (Downtown) Phoenix on the Map

December 31, 2015 by Brandi Porter

Downtown Phoenix was the epicenter for fan activities in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015. (Photo: NBMA Photography

Downtown Phoenix was the epicenter for fan activities in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015. (Photo: NBMA Photography

On Monday, Jan. 11, two teams will face off to win the College Football Playoff National Championship.

But Downtown Phoenix — and the whole city — may be the true champion here.

The weekend before the game, Jan. 8-10, the Arizona Championship Game will shine the national spotlight on Phoenix, as it transforms the urban core into a multi-block fan festival: the Championship Campus presented by Ak-Chin Indian Community.

“These major events place downtown, and Phoenix as a city, on the map,” said Samantha Jackson, director of operations for Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI). “It really gives us a chance to show off how much downtown has changed — that Uber is here, that we’re becoming an economic hub.”

Similar to the 2015 Super Bowl festivities, the Championship Campus features three days of fan activities in the heart of downtown — including a free outdoor festival with food, drink and concert performances, plus a ticketed indoor experience with interactive games, sponsor activities and special guest appearances.

Each night, different big-name artists will headline the outdoor concert series — like The Band Perry, Ciara and John Mellencamp — in the heart of downtown known as AT&T Playoff Playlist Live.

However, a celebration of this size doesn’t just pop up over night. It demands a lot of coordination between business owners and the event coordinators, something Downtown Phoenix Inc. does exceptionally well.

“We are the driving force on communicating with the stakeholders,” said Sara Anderson, director of events for DPI. “We’re getting more and more of these events, because we can handle it, we’re able to pull it together and host millions of people.”

But these large, national festivities are more than a short-lived fete.

Big or small, events expose potential new businesses, residents and visitors to the little things that make our downtown interesting, and the changes that have occurred.

Jackson said these massive events draw people back downtown, after they’ve experienced new businesses and restaurants, light rail or Grid Bike Share for the first time.

“This was the point of revitalization: We wanted this national attention, we wanted people to see how great our city is becoming,” she said.

David Krietor, CEO and president of DPI, agrees.

“Super Bowl was important because so much was changing downtown, and we got to unveil it to a national audience,” he said.

And while large sporting events are valuable, Krietor said smaller-scale events like Roosevelt Row’s Chile Pepper Festival or Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center’s (ALAC) Dia de los Muertos celebration are just as significant — these pieces add to the vibrancy of our downtown and attract people here.

“They’re the fabric that kind of knits the whole thing together,” he said.