Seven years on: $4B in changes for downtown Phoenix between Super Bowls

Jan 27, 2015, 3:34 PM | Updated: 3:34 pm

PHOENIX — Seven years ago, downtown Phoenix was regarded as a sleepier part of the Valley, especially in terms of nightlife.

Most Valley residents would drive in for a game and then get out of dodge to grab a bite or continue their night. After all, Phoenix was a place where people worked, not lived.

In 2015, that story has been completely flipped.

Since the last time the Valley hosted a Super Bowl in 2008, downtown Phoenix has been on the receiving end of $4 billion in investments, transforming into a bustling hub of bars, restaurants and events.

The city expanded its civic center from 300,000 square feet to one million. Three major hotels — the Hotel Palomar, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown and the Westin Phoenix Downtown — were all built.

“And then the light rail connected surrounding communities to downtown Phoenix,” Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman David Rousseau said.

In fiscal year 2013, a record 14.3 million people took the light rail.

Much of the ridership can be attributed to Arizona State University, which opened a campus in downtown in 2006. Since then, it has grown to include several prestigious schools — including the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Nursing & Health Innovation.

As the college grew, so did the food scene. Phoenix is now home to critically-acclaimed restaurants who used the Super Bowl buildup to show the Valley of the Sun is not lacking in tasty options.

“You can spend $20 on four restaurants and get eight items,” Sara Anderson, events manager for community development group Downtown Phoenix Inc., said. “I think people coming into the Super Bowl will be shocked by the prices.”

The Super Bowl will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Feb. 1, but downtown Phoenix served as the epicenter for NFL fans during both the Pro and Super bowls. Over one million people were expected to visit the downtown area to attend concerts, the NFL Experience and other entertainment.

Rousseau said the 2015 Super Bowl, along with all the city’s improvements, will set the stage for yet another big game in the desert.

“We want to successfully deliver on our obligation to the NFL but we also want to make sure all of our sponsors that made it possible financially to do that are happy with it and as a result will be ready to turn around and do it again,” he said.

KTAR’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Seven years on: $4B in changes for downtown Phoenix between Super Bowls