Few destinations are as fan-friendly as Greater Phoenix. From the Super Bowl to college championship showdowns to the best-attended tournament on the PGA Tour, the nation’s sixth-largest city plays host to some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Phoenix is one of only 13 cities that fields teams in all four major pro sports leagues, and it’s also the setting for a pair of NASCAR events each racing season.
For more than 20 years, the Phoenix Suns were the only major sports team in town, but as Phoenix grew, so did its reputation for big-time sports. Greater Phoenix earned its first major sports title in 2001 when the Arizona Diamondbacks, in just their fourth season of play, earned a World Series title. America’s sunniest metropolis laid claim to its next pro titles in 2007 and 2009, when the Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Finals.
The 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four is set for April 1 and April 3, 2017 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Downtown Phoenix will transform into a hub for fan festivities that will use a similar blue print from Super Central XLIX.
Since joining the National Basketball Association in 1968, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the league’s more successful franchises. The Suns have advanced to the NBA playoffs 29 times, and they regularly play before sellout crowds at Talking Stick Arena (formerly US Airways Arena). The arena, built in 1992, seats 19,022 for basketball and hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2009. Information: (602) 379-SUNS (7867).
The National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988. The franchise was instrumental in bringing Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XLII to Phoenix in 1996, 2008 and 2015, respectively. In 2006, the Cardinals played their inaugural season at University of Phoenix Stadium, which features both a retractable fabric roof and a roll-out grass field. In 2008-09, the Cardinals won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XLIII. University of Phoenix Stadium was the host of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, which was the game’s third visit to Arizona. The University of Phoenix Stadium will also be the host of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. In 2016, they hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship (Formerly BCS). Information: (602) 379-0102.
The National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes moved to Phoenix from Winnipeg, Canada before the 1996-97 season. The team moved into Jobing.com Arena in 2003. Postseason “whiteouts” are popular among Phoenix fans, who have cheered the Coyotes in the playoffs eight times since the franchise came to town. Information: (480) 563-7825.
Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks began play in 1998 at Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark) in downtown Phoenix. The facility seats more than 48,000 fans, and is one of the few stadiums in the world to feature a retractable roof, air conditioning and a natural-grass playing surface (not to mention a swimming pool). In an epic battle, the D-Backs defeated the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Chase Field played host to MLB All–Star Week in July 2011 and the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Information: (602) 514-8400.
Greater Phoenix serves as the seasonal home of a 15 Major League Baseball teams during Cactus League Spring Training. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers conduct their annual spring-training programs at 10 facilities in the metro area. Cactus League set an attendance record in 2013 with over 1.72 million people attending games. Information: (602) 534-1915.
Phoenix International Raceway has an annual economic impact of more than $470 million. The one-mile oval annually hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events: the in March and in November. The track, known to race fans as PIR, also plays host to Nationwide Series events in February and November. Information: (602) 463-5400.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, held every February at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, is the best-attended event on the PGA Tour. More than 500,000 spectators flock to the tournament during the first week of February, and the famously boisterous galleries on the par-3 16th hole have redefined the term “golf clap.” Information: (602) 870-0163.
The Phoenix Mercury, which began play in 1997, are one of the original franchises in the Women’s National Basketball Association. The Mercury captured the league championship in 2007 and 2009. Led by Diana Taurasi, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, the team has a staunch following at Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly U.S. Airways Arena). Information: (602) 252-WNBA (9622).
The Fiesta Bowl started from humble beginnings in 1971 and has since developed into one of nation’s top four annual college-football bowl games as part of the College Football Playoff (formerly BCS). The Fiesta Bowl hosted college football’s first unified national championship game in January 1999. In January 2007 it was the site for the inaugural BCS Championship, and it welcomed college football’s title game again in 2011 (also hosted national championship games in 1987, 1989 and 1996.) The Fiesta Bowl will also participate in the new College Football Playoff system. In 2016 they hosted the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and previously four college football semifinal games. The Fiesta Bowl, which was originally contested at Sun Devil Stadium, is now played at University of Phoenix Stadium. Information: (480) 350-0909.
Cactus Bowl made an exciting transition to Chase Field in downtown Phoenix for at least the three years commencing at the January 2, 2016 game which matched up selections from the Big 12 (West Virginia) and the Pac-12 (Arizona State University). The bowl game, run by the Fiesta Bowl, was held at Chase Field from 2000-05, when it was called the Insight Bowl, before moving to Sun Devil Stadium.
Arizona State University has long fielded very successful teams in a variety of men’s and women’s sports. The Arizona State Sun Devils’ athletic program, which consists of eight men’s and 12 women’s varsity squads, consistently fields teams ranked among the top NCAA schools. Information: (480) 965-2381.
Combining fitness and entertainment with every mile, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon annually attracts more than 30,000 participants to the streets of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The race, which serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, debuted in January 2004. Information: (800) 311-1255.
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