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Sports tourism is big business for Arizona, expected to keep growing

Governor asks everyone stand for anthem before Super Bowl, even those watching at home
Posted at 5:01 AM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 08:01:46-04

PHOENIX — It's more than just slam dunks and touchdowns. Sports tourism is amounting to huge revenue for Arizona cities and businesses, and experts say those big numbers are expected to keep growing as more sporting events come to Arizona.

"Arizona is seen as a great place for sports tourism," explains Dr. Anthony Evans, a researcher at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey's School of Business.

Dr. Evans says according to the school's Seidman Research Institute, sports tourism in Arizona amounts to big bucks. Dr. Evans says each year, events like Cactus League Baseball, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and college bowl games help bring in upwards of $700 million in outside money into the Arizona economy annually.

But if you factor in other large events like the Super Bowl or the NCAA Finals, Dr. Evans explains that annual figure could grow to $1 billion or more.

For Cactus League Baseball, according to a 2018 impact study, we're told that six out of ten fans came from out of state --and nearly a third of those out-of-state fans said they would also be visiting another part of Arizona during their trip, making an even bigger economic splash.

"That's a great way to get people to experience the wonderful things we have here in Arizona," explains Debbie Johnson with the Arizona Office of Tourism.

"People who come here go to the game and that's a huge part of it, but then they go to do other things, whether that's in the Valley, whether that's outside the Valley or they go to the Grand Canyon or they go up to Flagstaff."

But Johnson explains the impact goes beyond dollars and cents -- she says sports tourism is also shaping how our cities are growing, especially Downtown Phoenix.

"Sports is a huge part of the creation of Downtown Phoenix. To work down there 20 plus years ago and truly it is a totally different destination now. And it's become a destination in itself."

Johnson also says having these big events like the NBA Finals in our backyard is the best kind of advertising there is, where the big networks are showing glimpses of what life is like in our great state. Johnson explains you can't put a price tag on that sort of advertising.

And with NASCAR, the WNBA, Phoenix Rising -- you name it -- there truly is something for everyone in the sports realm right here in Arizona.