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Arizona prepares for bowl game bonanza

By - Dec 09, 2015

By Danielle McNally/For The Sporting Nation

As the college football regular season comes to an end, many teams will head to the Valley to compete in bowl games, which all lead up to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game to be played in Glendale, Arizona.

Arizona will host four bowl games -- the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson on Dec. 29, the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl in Glendale on Jan. 1, the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl in Phoenix on Jan. 2 -- and the National Championship Game in Glendale on Jan. 11.

Nevada and Colorado State will compete in The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl’s inaugural game.

The newly sanctioned Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl is expected to draw more than 30,000 fans to Tucson for a game Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission CEO Alan Young said is full of “firsts.”

“It's very exciting to be part of creating a whole new template for bowl games,” Young said. “(It) is the first bowl game in history to pledge 100 percent of its net proceeds to local non-profit organizations. This may be the 42nd postseason collegiate football game, but it's the first in these respects."

Young said having the game in Arizona is going to bring an exciting experience for college football fans of all ages.

"There is just something very wholesome and exciting about a college football game, a bowl game in particular,” Young said. “The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl will be such a positive experience not only for
sports fans, but for families in general looking for a fun experience during the holidays.”

Carol Taylor, marketing manager at Nova Home Loans, said the company’s decision to become the title sponsor revolved around community support.

“There is going to be a $25 million economic impact to Tucson and southern Arizona, and it was really important for us to be a part of that,” Taylor said. “Nova started in Tucson 35 years ago, and even
though we have grown to different states and have lots of employees, we are committed to the Tucson community.”

Along with a strong sense of community, Taylor said Nova Home Loans is proud to put Tucson on a national stage and bring their sponsorship to a new level.

“We are huge supporters of sports,” Taylor said. “We also do sponsorships with some professional teams like the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks, so that is a part of our culture. In terms of being a title sponsor of a bowl game, this is the first time doing something at this level.”

In addition to the Arizona Bowl, Tucson will host numerous events to get fans excited for the big game.

On Dec. 28, the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl Block Party will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. in downtown Tucson, featuring bands, street musicians and food. A pregame party at the University of Arizona Mall
will be held on Dec. 29 before the 5:30 p.m. kickoff.

The BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, Arizona’s second bowl game of the season, will be held on New Year’s Day, when No. 8 Notre Dame will take on No. 7 Ohio State.

On Dec. 4, it was announced that BattleFrog would be the new Fiesta Bowl title sponsor after previous companies such as Vizio and Tostitos.

The 27th Annual Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, featuring West Virginia and Arizona State, will take place on Jan. 2 at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of baseball's Diamondbacks.

Although the Fiesta and Cactus Bowls are two separate events, they are managed by the same organization.

Jennifer Jepson, director of communications for the Fiesta Bowl organization, said the company is committed to enhancing the Arizona community through charitable events.

“The Fiesta and Cactus Bowls are non-profits, so every event we host every year allows us to give back to the community,” Jepson said. “This season alone we have given $1.5 million back to Arizona non-profits.”

Even when having fun at events, fans are really giving back to those in need and enhancing the community at the same time, Jepson said.

“I don’t know if everyone recognizes that when they come to a game or pregame party they are allowing us to feed hungry kids, or build a firehouse at Luke Air Force Base, or provide a bus for a anti-bullying
non-profit to get around to the state of Arizona to schools to spread their message,” Jepson said. “There are a lot of ways that we make Arizona a better place.”

There will be two pre-game parties, the Fiesta Bowl Fan Fest and the APS Fiesta Bowl Stadium Club Pre-Game Party, the morning of the Fiesta Bowl.

The Cox Oasis Pregame Party presented by Desert Schools Federal Credit Union starts at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 and is the official kickoff for the Cactus Bowl.

On Jan. 2, the National Bank of Arizona Fiesta Bowl Parade, a two-mile parade through downtown Phoenix, will take place at 11 a.m. It is one of the largest single day spectator events in the state of Arizona and
brings out lots of Valley residents and families, Jepson said.

The Fiesta Bowl also offers a section on its website encouraging viewers to learn more “About the Area,” including activities for visitors to do while in town for the bowl game.

Jepson said these two bowl games will create large tourism and economic impacts in the Valley.

This year the College Football Playoff National Championship will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals.

The last time the championship game was played in Arizona was in 2011, when the Auburn Tigers defeated the Oregon Ducks 22-19.

The semi-finals will be No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

The results of these two games will determine who plays in the CFP
National Championship game.

The majority of the events leading up to the big game will be held in downtown Phoenix, and will highlight the ultimate college football fan experience.

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Arizona Organizing Committee, Stephanie Jarvis, said she believes there will be a large economic impact from the bowl games in the Valley.

“The last four BCS Championships brought about $646 million in economic impact,” Jarvis said. “We think this one, because of all of the events going on, we could approach $200 to $300 million in economic impact.”

Downtown Phoenix will be transformed into a college football playoff hub, with AT&T Playoff Playlist Live!, a large concert series, and the Playoff Fan Central at the forefront of the events.

The concert series includes famous artists such as The Band Perry, Walk the Moon, Ciara and John Mellencamp.

The Playoff Fan Central will act as a family-friendly fan festival featuring autograph signings, youth clinics, pictures with the championship trophy, and other football related activities.

Jarvis said organizers are aiming to ensure that fans get the most out of their college football playoff experience.

“We hope people realize that it is more than just a game, and they can come and enjoy the festivities and the weeklong celebration of college football,” Jarvis said.

Gina Lehe, senior director of communications and brand management for the College Football Playoff, said that the downtown Phoenix area will act as the heart of the championship until the events are shifted to
Glendale on game day.

“We are really developing a hub of all of our activities in downtown Phoenix,” Lehe said. “Outside of game day, that will really be the main focus of all of our fan activation and events leading up to game day.”

Lehe said she hopes families, fans and Valley residents will attend the events and experience the atmosphere even if they are not going to the actual game.

“We want the entire community to feel like they are a part of the event,” Lehe said. “We have sports clinics, interactive games, youth clinics, and pep rallies, so we are trying to create an atmosphere that allows for everyone in the community to take part in, regardless if they have a ticket to the game or not.”

This past year Arizona also hosted Super Bowl XLIX and had extended fan experience zones in downtown Phoenix. These events included the Pro Bowl, the NFL Experience, Media Day and Verizon Super Bowl

City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said bowl game events will bring a large response to the Valley, similar to the events surrounding the Super Bowl.

“The College Football Playoff events will turn downtown Phoenix into the nation’s sports epicenter,” Stanton said in a press release. “Much like Super Bowl Central, these events will provide both local and visiting fans an amazing opportunity to be part of college football’s biggest game, while delivering direct economic benefits to local businesses.”

City of Phoenix marketing and communications manager Tammy Vo said the city is well-equipped and ready to handle events of this scale after experiencing the Super Bowl.

“The city is well prepared to handle this event,” Vo said. “Super Bowl Central was a huge success for Phoenix. There were no major problems associated with the event because the city was prepared. The event
provided us with the tools needed to plan for large-scale events like this, as well as develop concrete communications and contingency plans.”

Vo said that the college football playoff games will positively impact the economy and bring many visitors to experience Phoenix and the state of Arizona.

“These events will have a tremendous impact on the Phoenix and state economies,” Vo said. “Thousands of people will travel to our area from across the world to enjoy not only football and related events, but to
enjoy all the other things our great city has to offer. This level of tourism will provide increased revenue, not only for the city, but for hotels, restaurants, visitor destinations and more.”

Arizona will continue to be the hub of college sports tournaments in 2017 when the state will host the Final Four college basketball tournament.


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