Sunday's Biggest Winner Is Phoenix
SUPER BOWL BOOST
THE Valley of the Sun, as metropolitan Phoenix is called, is about to enjoy its day in the sun - being inundated with visitors, national publicity, and dollars.
While the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will divvy up a $3.6 million purse after Super Bowl XXX is played here Sunday, the local economy will stagger away with $187 million spent on hotel rooms, meals, rental cars, and more. And if the corporate decisionmakers who flock to this event leave with a favorable impression, the long-term economic boost could be greater still. (Team overviews, Page 11.)
Arizona's super welcome includes a record 106 related events, complimentary tickets for executives thinking about relocating here, and 13,000 local volunteers, 5,000 of whom attended a weekend ''charm school.''
''Use friendly vocabulary with guests,'' reads a pamphlet handed out at the recent event. ''Try phrases like, 'I'll be happy to,' 'Good morning,' and 'My pleasure.' ''
But don't, the pamphlet goes on, humiliate a disoriented visitor who can't make heads or tails of a guidebook by yelling, ''What! You don't have books in Dallas?''
Some 100,000 football fans (many of whom do not hold tickets) will travel here; another 750 million or so will tune in worldwide. (The game will even be broadcast by radio in Navajo - a first.) The Federal Aviation Administration is anticipating a traffic jam of corporate jets, and so many cellular phones are likely to be in use at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe that phone carrier U.S. West is installing new equipment.
Event organizers, including the Super Bowl XXX Host Committee, are banking on the worldwide publicity to showcase the Grand Canyon State.
They also hope to erase the memory of the controversy over a state holiday to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. When voters rejected the holiday after a confusing ballot initiative, the NFL canceled plans to hold the 1993 Super Bowl here. The hope now is to put on such a dazzling display that the league will rush to make a return engagement.
A lot is working in Phoenix's favor, including Arizona's balmy winters.
''The only thing we're going to be shoveling is liquid sunshine,'' boasts Gregg Holmes, chairman of the Superhost Committee for Super Bowl XXX. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the 60s..
The record 106 Super Bowl-related activities range from concerts and golf tournaments to art walks, bike races, and a pack-burro race. The previous record was 25 at the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
Suburban Tempe spent about $1 million to grade and blacktop a site for a huge NFL-sponsored theme park. The city hopes to recoup its investment when the park becomes a parking lot. Phoenix spent $32 million renovating its downtown Civic Plaza, which will host the glitzy NFL commissioner's party and serve as media center for the 3,000 journalists expected from around the world.
About 35,000 hotel rooms have been booked by out-of-town visitors. And more than 1,100 buses, 700 limousines, 10,000 rental cars, and 750 corporate aircraft are expected to clog area streets and skies prior to Sunday's game at Arizona State University. ASU's 75,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium doubles as home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.
On a recent Saturday morning, about 5,000 volunteers received a crash course on the dos and don'ts of Super Bowl hospitality.
It was part pep talk, part charm school for those who will staff information kiosks, hospitality centers, and other points of first contact with visitors.
''You will carry our message of 'sharing the warmth,' '' said Steve Patterson, the host committee's executive director, citing this year's Super Bowl theme. A college theater troupe provided humorous skits to drive home the message: Crabby service is out. Smiles and helpfulness are in.
The session made an impression on volunteer Mark Carey of Tempe, a construction worker and Cowboys fan, who said, ''It's bigger than I thought - a whole lot bigger.''
There's good reason for the attention to Super Bowl etiquette. More than half the attendees will be corporate decisionmakers. Most Fortune 500 companies will be represented at the game. An unguarded remark or expression might cost the state a corporate relocation and the jobs it could have brought. The Arizona Commerce Department is wooing the executives of 30 potential relocating firms with Super Bowl tickets.
One of the biggest pregame attractions will be ''The NFL Experience,'' an interactive theme park dubbed ''800,000 square feet of gridiron heaven.'' Inside, fans can live out football fantasies at such exhibits as ''Look Like a Pro,'' where one can step into body-cast molds outfitted with NFL uniforms.
The game is also expected to lure up to 30,000 visitors who have no plans to buy a ticket, but want to soak up the tailgate parties and reverie of the event.
But all the hoopla has failed to quell the issue of race relations, even though the state's voters approved a King holiday in 1992, thus opening the way for the NFL to award Phoenix the 1996 Super Bowl game.
Last week, the race issue resurfaced when Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights leader, faulted the host committee for not giving more business to African-American firms.
''You can't 'share the warmth' unless you share the wealth,'' she told a Phoenix audience.
Her charge was challenged by the Super Bowl's executive director of special events, who said minority companies received 10 percent of contracts awarded through November.
Firms owned by African-Americans make up about half of those minority businesses. African-Americans make up about 3 percent of the state's population.