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Phoenix in 1993: How it became one of the largest cities in the country

Posted at 10:01 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-18 01:12:22-04

PHOENIX — Historical records show Phoenix's population was roughly 700,000 back in 1993. Today that number sits around 1.7 million.

Steve Yozwiak has been living in the Valley of the Sun for most of his life. He remembers living in Scottsdale and having to take Pima Road because there was no Loop 101 back then.

“What we used to call America West Arena had just opened and I had season tickets, we were there at Game 6,” he says.

Back then, life was so different. Cell phones were just coming into the market, with no capabilities of taking instant pictures or social media.

“If you wanted to get a picture of you at the game, you couldn’t just take it on your phone, you had to take a camera with you,” he adds.

Archive video from the City of Phoenix that year shows people wearing suits and traveling with briefcases. Also, a bus stop shows people reading leisurely or smoking, not staring at smartphones like we see today.

"Back in '93, there was no Arizona Diamondbacks, there was no Phoenix Biomedical Campus, there was no TGEN, there was no U of A Medical School,” adds Steve.

“It is definitely a different downtown Phoenix than it was in 1993,” says Claudia Whitehead, a program manager with the City of Phoenix Economic Development Office.

Whitehead tells ABC15 Phoenix wasn’t ranked as a top 10 largest cities in America.

“In 1993 we were close to 1 million people and now we are 1.7 million. Another exciting number is that we have been the fastest-growing city in the U.S. for five years in a row.”

More people move here than any other city in the country. The jobs that people come for are also different. Back in 1993, most jobs consisted of call centers, construction retail, hospitality and real estate.

Fast forward to 2021 and the jobs are related to bioscience healthcare, technology, financial service and manufacturing.

Back in the early 1990s, the deck park tunnel and the I-10 freeway were completed, sparking the beginning of connectivity in the Valley.

‘That was not the case back in the early 90s because you did have to travel, you were more dependent on the arterials than on the freeways,” adds Whitehead.

To give you some perspective on how limiting the freeway was, State Route 51 ended at Shea Boulevard.

The Phoenix Suns making it into the NBA Finals again for the first time in 28 years means that Phoenix is being seen on the worldwide stage.

“I met the CEO of an Australian life sciences company. He indicated that he and his team are officially adopting and rooting for the Phoenix Suns,” adds Whitehead.