PARADISE VALLEY – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey chuckled when he heard the word again.
“You know, it’s this community that closed this deal,” the governor said.
“This deal” is the awarding of Super Bowl LVII in 2023 to Arizona, which all 32 NFL teams unanimously approved on Wednesday morning in Atlanta. By Wednesday evening, Ducey and Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill had returned from Georgia to hold a press conference at the Sanctuary Resort, using the backdrop of a sunset and Piestewa Peak Park to formally announce the news.
That’s when Bidwill gave Arizona’s 27th governor the nickname.
“He was the closer,” Bidwill said.
“I’ve seen him do this on so many different business deals where we’re recruiting these businesses,” Bidwill said of Ducey. “Twice at the Paris Air Show with him and multiple times on many of these events here in town that we’ve had around the Final Four, the National Championship Game and the last Super Bowl.”
Add the NFL owners meetings to that list.
In Bidwill’s estimation, Ducey’s involvement with Arizona’s proposal was hugely influential. Under the league’s new bidding process – which has the league negotiate one-on-one with handpicked cities, as reported by the Sports Business Journal – the Arizona delegation wasn’t competing with other markets but rather trying to persuade NFL owners to bring the Super Bowl here for a fourth time. Bidwill said Ducey, who led the delegation, “worked the room” the night before the vote and helped solidify the Arizona pitch.
“It made a big statement to the owners. I heard from many of them, after the governor left the room, how impressed they were that he was there. He put this over the finish line,” Bidwill said.
Bidwill was in the room with the other owners when the votes were made, which was a “really quick” process, he said.
“I was really pleased that it was unanimous,” he added.
Ducey said he was proud to lead the Arizona delegation and said the fact that mega-events – like the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship and NCAA men’s basketball Final Four – keep coming back to the state is “a testament to the people of Arizona.”
“This is just another validation that Arizona is a premier destination for mega-events. It’s a validation of our economic growth and quality of life,” he said.
David Rousseau, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee chairman, was part of the team that organized Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, the last time the game was held in Arizona. He, too, pointed to Ducey’s involvement as a key to landing the 2023 game, an event he called a “remarkable opportunity” for the state.
“It takes this collaborative effort from the community, all the way from the governor’s office,” he said. “That’s why it was so symbolic and critical that the governor was there leading the effort.”
Bidwill was pleased to see another Super Bowl awarded to Arizona again so quickly. Despite new stadiums either completed or planned in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as a renovated venue in Miami, no market will host more Super Bowls from 2008 to 2023 than metro Phoenix.
“There’s not really a rotation anymore. It’s hard for us to get in there,” Bidwill said. “There’s competition from everywhere. We’re going to continue to position ourselves, the stadium, the state in the best possible way so we can get a bunch of these.”
Bidwill detailed plans for at least $100 million of upcoming renovations to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, the Super Bowl venue as well as the Cardinals’ home stadium. He said improvements will be made to the building’s parking lots, tailgating areas, Wi-Fi, video boards and other “stuff you don’t really see changes to” that better the fan experience.
Bidwill also said that the NFL asked for about three times the amount of event space around the city than what it needed for past Super Bowls.
In 2015, the game was held in Glendale and downtown Phoenix was Super Bowl Central. The 2023 edition will be “much bigger,” Bidwill said, and will include events around the Valley.
Bidwill and Ducey outlined other parts of their proposal to the league as well.
They named a list of infrastructure improvements – such as 22 miles of new freeways, 22 new hotel properties (and 7,000 new hotel rooms) and renovations of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – that will be completed by 2023 that will help the city handle what Bidwill hopes will be the “most fan-friendly and biggest Super Bowl that’s ever happened.”
“We’ve got a five-year runway to 2023,” Ducey said. “We know what this can do for the state economically, last time with over $700 million brought (according to an ASU study) into the state and 121,000 visitors coming in (during the 2015 Arizona Super Bowl). Now we’ll have additional hotels and restaurants and an economy that has momentum that’s really building on itself.”
Bidwill also mentioned that the Super Bowl Host Committee would again raise money to help stage the event. For the 2015 game, Rousseau led the committee’s fundraising efforts that brought in nearly $30 million. Bidwill expects the contributions to be even greater for Super Bowl LVII.
“We have this opportunity to really, while we have a global audience, to tell a great story about Arizona,” Rousseau said. “I think that story, with the governor’s help, just continues to get better and better.”