Super Bowl week turns Phoenix area into Valley of Fun

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Rihanna poses for a photo after a halftime show news conference ahead of the Super Bowl 57 NFL football game, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

PHOENIX – The winter and spring months are tourist season in Arizona, with visitors descending upon the Valley of the Sun to escape the cold and enjoy the outdoors.

The Super Bowl adds another layer of boisterousness, the extra 100,000-plus people filling bars, restaurants and parties across the desert.

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Throw in the Phoenix Open, the PGA Tour's version of a boozy mosh pit on grass, and the Phoenix area transforms into a weeklong Valley of Fun.

“The buzz is definitely here,” said Jay Parry, president and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. “It’s going to be bigger and better than the last one.”

The last one, in 2015, was a massive hit.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks played an epic Super Bowl that turned on a goal-line stand in the closing seconds. The Phoenix Open had already established itself as the Greatest Show on Grass and Tiger Woods fueled the festivities by playing in the event for the first time since 2001.

This year's Super Bowl has the ingredients for another memorable mix.

The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, trying to win their third championship overall, while the Philadelphia Eagles are vying for their second title in six years. It will also feature two of the NFL's most dynamic quarterbacks in Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts.

Sunday's game is obviously the centerpiece, but the build-up is a rollicking weeklong bash.

For previous Super Bowls, Glendale — where the stadium is — Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix were the festive focal points. The revelry has spread across the Valley for this year's game.

The NFL and the host committee have 20 sanctioned events in the four days leading up to the Super Bowl, part of more than 200 events in the Phoenix area.

This Super Bowl has not one, but two NFL Experience sites for fans. One is at the Phoenix Convention Center, where fans can kick field goals, throw passes or run through a gauntlet of tackling dummies.

The experience at Hance Park on the north side of downtown has live music in the evenings and will host an outdoor watch party that will include the largest video screens in Arizona. The Navy flyover for the game in Glendale also will pass over the park just after the national anthem.

“It’s awesome,” said Eagles fan Sean Duffy, who flew from Philadelphia with his family to attend the game. “We go to every game and being here is great, especially the weather.”

So is the music.

Rihanna is performing at halftime and will likely have a surprise guest or two. Country singer Chris Stapleton is singing the national anthem with Oscar-winning actor Troy Kotsur performing it in sign language. Babyface will sing “America The Beautiful.”

For those not going to the game there are plenty of other big-name acts performing in the Valley, like Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, Paramore, Machine Gun Kelly, Dave Matthews Band, Tim McGraw and numerous others.

“This time around, the fan interest in the Super Bowl has been really high and being a part of it has been incredible,” said Parry, who also was a part of the 2015 Super Bowl.

The Phoenix Open has added to it.

The tournament at TPC Scottsdale has transformed from just another stop on the PGA Tour's West Coast swing into the circuit's party place. Hundreds of thousands of fans descend upon the desert course every year — a record 216,000 in 2018 — to cheer and jeer at decibel levels better suited for a football game.

The par-3 16th hole is the rowdy epicenter, a three-layer cake of pandemonium with more than 20,000 often-inebriated fans creating golf's version of a party cruise.

The Phoenix Open has an even higher profile this year.

The PGA Tour elevated the purses of four tournaments in response to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. The Phoenix Open is one, with a purse of $20 million and $3.6 million to the winner — up from $8.2 million and $1.4 million last year.

Another change: beer will be sold in cups instead of cans at the 16th hole after fans created a beer storm for a pair of aces.

Don't expect it to slow the rowdiness.

“I don’t think it’s everybody’s favorite,” said PGA Tour player Jon Rahm, who played at nearby Arizona State. “I think either you love it or hate it. There’s no in between. With my case, I love it.”

Find something you don't like in Phoenix this week, there's likely something else right around the corner in the Valley of Fun.

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