Your guide to Phoenix’s college national football championship weekend bash
PHOENIX — Downtown Phoenix will be looking a little less business and a little more party this week as the city gears up for the college football national championship game.
The city will once again turn into the place to be for fans as it sets up a designated entertainment zone that will feature live music, activities and food and drinks.
Phoenix was the site of a similar event for last year’s Super Bowl.
“There will be two signature events here: Our fan festival, which we call Playoff Fan Central, and also our concert series, Playoff Playlist Live!,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said when the event was announced in May.
About 300,000 fans are expected to attend the three-day event.
We gathered all the necessary information you’ll need about the big event and organized it below.
Playoff Fan Central
This year’s indoor event, similar to last year’s NFL Experience and officially termed Playoff Fan Central, will run from Friday to Sunday.
“The inside activities, which are inside the Phoenix Convention Center, which is called Playoff Fan Central, will really be football-themed, they’ll be family-friendly,” Stephanie Jarvis, chief operating officer of the Arizona Organizing Committee, said. “There will be autograph opportunities with former players, there will be the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy, and there will be Media Day that happens there with the teams.”
Entry to Playoff Fan Central are $12 for adults and $7 for children, students, seniors and the military. A family ticket pack is available with code CFAFAMILY.
The event runs on the following dates and times:
- Friday: 3-8 p.m.
- Saturday: 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Sunday: Noon-8 p.m.
Fans will have to pass a security screening similar to that at an Arizona Cardinals game.
AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! and Championship Campus
The second part of the event, Championship Campus, is free, outdoors and will feature concerts as part of AT&T Playoff Playlist Live!. Several blocks of downtown will be transformed into one big party space where drinks can be carried outside of bars, live music from some top artists can be heard and plenty of activities will be available.
“There will things going on throughout the day with music, DJs, dance performances, and all kinds of fun activities,” Jarvis said. “And of course it’s an open container area — you’ll be allowed to enjoy an adult beverage or two.”
The open-carry area is shown in the map below (click to enlarge).
For those who can’t open the photo, the Championship Campus is between Washington and Jefferson Streets and First Avenue and Third Street.
The campus will be open from noon to midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the concerts, the city’s annual CitySkate ice rink will remain open through Monday.
Several concerts will take place free-of-charge. Flip through the gallery below to see the bands playing each night before you move down the story. (Editor’s note: Singer Andy Grammer’s appearance was canceled on Wednesday. The gallery reflects the change.)
In addition to everything mentioned above, two special events — a dinner and a 5K — will also be held on the Championship Campus.
The dinner, Taste of the Championship, features top chefs from both Arizona and across the nation. Attendees can sample some of the best cuisine the country has to offer while mingling with former star college players.
Tickets for the dinner, which runs 5-8 p.m. Sunday, are $250. Proceeds from the event benefit Extra Yard for Teachers.
If running is more of your thing, lace up Sunday morning by 9 a.m. and take to the streets in the Extra Yard 5K, which will benefit the same foundation. Registration is $25 before the race and $35 at the starting line.
Is it going to be cold?
We’re not saying it’s going to be like a Midwestern winter out there, but it will be fairly chilly by Arizona standards. The National Weather Service has already called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms through Friday evening and highs are not expected to top 60 degrees.
On Friday, the weather service said there is a 50 percent showers for most of the day with a high near 53 degrees and a low of 42.
As the weekend goes on, the chance of rain will drop, and the mercury will creep up a few degrees. Saturday’s high will be about 56, while Sunday’s is 58. Both nights will see a low around 41 degrees.
With such a large event, crowds are expected to be large and parking, naturally, will be tough to come by. Downtown Phoenix has plenty of parking garages, but street closures (see below) may limit access to some of them.
- First Street will be closed between Washington and Jefferson streets from Jan. 4 to Jan. 14.
- Second Street will be closed between Washington and Jefferson streets from Jan. 4 to Jan. 14.
- Third Street will be closed between Washington and Monroe streets from Jan. 4 to Jan. 14.
Drivers are encouraged to avoid Seventh Street, as heavy traffic is expected all weekend long; consider using Seventh Avenue and getting in and out from the west or south. Also, drivers should keep an eye out for signs directing them where to go.
The light rail is a good option, but keep in mind that as many as 126,000 people used the trains in one day during the Super Bowl party to get there.
Either way, it’s a good idea to plan for extra travel time and simply be patient.
Keeping fans safe
Officials said they plan to keep a close eye on things so fans can focus on enjoying themselves.
Kevin Kalkbrenner, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the city of Phoenix, said thousands of law enforcement and fire officials will be working the event, including 300-400 in the command post.
“The first element is to make sure we have enough fire and police in place and then, from there, we need to be able to create a good communication network,” he said.
Kalkbrenner said officials can use the public’s help to report any suspicious activity and to heed security requirements.
There is a list of allowed items and things not to bring, but here are some highlights:
- Bags bigger than 12 inches by 12 inches. Those with bag will be searched.
- Any self-propelled device — think bicycles, roller blades, skateboards, etc.
- Poles over one-foot long. Basically, keep your selfie stick game under control.
- No firearms or outside alcohol.
- No drones.
Sky Harbor will be busy before and after
Phoenix Sky Harbor said it is ready to handle the influx of fans. While an estimated 80,000 fans are expected to arrive before Jan. 11, many will try to get out of town the day after the game.
The airport said travelers should plan to arrive about three hours before their flight to allow for both long security lines and crowds. It also recommended checking in a head of time and using an early bag check system to move things along.
Fans who purchased a program should pack it in their carry-on bag.
It’s game time
After all this build up and fun, we still have a football game to play. The NCAA National Championship game will be played Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
After beating No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, second-ranked Alabama earned a spot in the final against top-ranked Clemson, who beat No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Arizona time.
KTAR’s Corbin Carson contributed to this report.