There were sighs of relief last week in the West Valley…not because the debt ceiling was raised. Everyone was relieved that the National Football League dispute was settled, the football season would start on time, and Kevin Kolb was signed as quarterback, helping ensure that people will come to see football. In an economy still reeling from the recession, the Phoenix metropolitan area needs this valuable, revenue-generating sport.
Despite some improvement in the real estate market, unemployment remains high and businesses continue to struggle. The West Valley, in particular, had bet on sports–professional hockey and football–to champion economic development. But the uncertainty surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes, and the strain the recession placed on Westgate has made the success of the Arizona Cardinals more important than ever.
During the referendum to approve the controversial multi-purpose stadium, promises were made about the economic benefits to the Valley. While other sources of revenue expected from hotel and rental car taxes may have faltered due to drops in visitation, the Stadium has delivered. The University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, at a cost of $460 million. In 2008, Super Bowl XLII, alone, generated about a half billion dollars for Phoenix. It is estimated that the Cardinals generate about $150 million annually for Arizona’s economy. Football provides jobs, helps fill hotel rooms with visiting teams and fans, and feeds bars and restaurants, throughout the Valley.
The Cardinals’ impact is not limited to the Phoenix area. Shortening of the training camp would have had serious consequences for Coconino County. A study by Northern Arizona University showed that the hotel, restaurants and other services used by the Cardinals team, the media and the 31,000 fans who traveled to Flagstaff to see training camp, alone generated $6.7 million in direct revenues to the local economy in 2010.
The issue remains that the Cardinals only have eight regular season games. Scandal threatened the profitable Fiesta Bowl ($1 billion in economic benefits in five years) and BCS Bowl ($188 million in 2011).
Global Spectrum, which manages the Stadium, the State, and the cities of the Valley need to continue to solicit non-football events, like last year’s WrestleMania, which grossed almost $6 million. But, in the meantime, the excitement of a new quarterback to toss touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, and a new football season will add some needed emotional and financial boost to Phoenicians.