If you’ve been anywhere near downtown Scottsdale the last several days you’ve observed that an entertainment army has swarmed the streets, setting up large arrays of equipment, posting sentinels and unfurling banners declaring the territory beneath them to be undeniably theirs.
For about a week, anyway.
This victory in the Battle of Scottsdale (actually, Scottsdale didn’t put up a fight at all) is part of a larger theater of operations encompassing most of the Valley of the Sun.
Like world wars, it also is known by Roman numerals.
As much as Super Bowl XXX rallied us as a gratifyingly unified community in 1996 and busied various venues Valleywide, to see how much has changed in the 12 years since, all you need to do is note the geometric growth in hanger-on events that Super Bowl XLII has attracted.
And there’s nowhere, not even in the host city of next Sunday’s game — a still largely nationally unknown city that’s slightly larger than Scottsdale — where the hanging on is more profound than in Scottsdale.
There was plenty of local laughter last year when some people wanted to bring to downtown Scottsdale an event pitting teams of young women wearing undergarments in a gridiron competition called Lingerie Bowl V.
Because it was, of course, not sanctioned by the NFL, it earned guffaws from local know-it-alls who shook their heads at how there’s always someone wanting to bask in the glow of the Super Bowl, the megaevent of all megaevents.
How naive that was. While there’s still no sign of the Lingerie Bowl in Scottsdale — and there are probably still plenty of red-blooded Scottsdale males still searching for it — there’s so much glow-basking going on here that you might conclude — wrongly — that it would block out the glare.
Celebrities have certainly become a significant part of Scottsdale’s growing cachet as a see-and-be-seen destination. But it’s hard to think of any other time that so many of them are making their way here simultaneously.
The Scottsdale Galleria Centre is today an office building and one-time failed high-end shopping citadel that throughout the 1990s was the butt of so many Scottsdale jokes.
This week, it is the triumphant displayer of a large banner bearing the likenesses of celebrities John Travolta and Carmen Electra, each headlining a separate event at the site.
Like many others, they can’t claim affiliation with the Super Bowl (the usual synonym is “the Big Game”) but, well, they just happen to be held a few days beforehand in the same metro area.
Scottsdale’s Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains a page on its Web site that contains the growing list of celeb-events, sprinkled with names: Pamela Anderson, Jimmy Buffett, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Kevin Sorbo....
Kevin Sorbo? Yes, even Hercules has taken time from hobnobbing with the gods on Mount Olympus to descend to Scottsdale to hang with us mortals. (By the way, his name’s on a golf tournament at a local course.)
Yet even the officially sanctioned elements have found choice Scottsdale spots to make camp for the week, surprising many locals who might have thought the national sports media would have set up entirely in Glendale, where, after all, the game is actually being played.
ESPN senior coordinating producer Stephanie Druley said she had no problem with Glendale.
It was just that Scottsdale’s having “rolled out the red carpet” to the sports network encouraged it to base 90 hours of TV programming this week at the foot of the Marshall Way Bridge between the Scottsdale Waterfront and Stetson Drive.
It met ESPN’s requirements for a “hot location,” with plenty of room for crowds, she said.
“Glendale would have been a great place, too,” Druley said. “But we decided we wanted to be in Scottsdale.”
A main draw was how well Scottsdale satisfied ESPN’s need for what Druley called an “iconic backdrop that says where we’re going to be.”
That means that to the nation, Camelback Mountain must epitomize the Phoenix area, because that’s exactly what’s framed behind ESPN’s anchor desk. The city’s downtown director, John Little, said that when workers setting up the 944 Super Village just to the northwest erected a tent that blocked that view, a quick huddle resulted in the tent being moved slightly to the north, saving the day.
The NFL Network and the Spanish-language network Televisa also are broadcasting this week in the same Stetson Drive neighborhood, Little said, as well as two Phoenix television stations’ news shows.
A spokesman for the Travolta event, the Saturday Night Spectacular, said the Galleria Centre had a first-class look, vital because “our event is very high-end.”
The Galleria was “grandiose, had a ‘wow’ effect,” William Ekeroth said.
And to think, people here once called the place a white elephant.
But why Scottsdale, 30 miles away from the game itself?
“The Super Bowl party scene is an event unto itself,” Ekeroth said, saying the parties’ proximity to Scottsdale’s high-end resorts where well-heeled partiers would be staying also was a key factor.
“It doesn’t matter how far it is from the stadium because people come specifically to attend events such as ours.”
Scottsdale city spokesman Mike Phillips said that between the Super Bowl-related events, the FBR Open and a major horse show at WestWorld all at the same time, between Monday and Super Bowl Sunday around 1 million visitors are expected to be in Scottsdale.
This doesn’t include the more than 230,000 people who already live here, he said.
For its part, Glendale’s spin on the number of “Big Game” galas, shows, parties — and TV network broadcast sites — that are well beyond its city limits is that the Super Bowl attracts crowds that are too big for any one city.
“Upset? Absolutely not,” said Glendale city spokeswoman Julie Frisoni, noting that the Fox network’s news and sports division are set up in Glendale as well as CNN and HBO.
“It’s important to remember that there’s so much media, there’s enough for everybody,” Frisoni said. “It’d be crazy to think all of them could stay in one place.”
Maybe. But according to that line of thinking, if the stadium were here in Scottsdale — somehow — how many of the national media would be in Glendale?
In fairness, Glendale appears quite happy to be where it is. Its residents know that it wasn’t the first choice for the stadium, as the East Valley fumbled at least two shots at landing it.
Frisoni said her city grasps that to the rest of the country, the area is going to be generally known by the big city, Phoenix, to which both West Valley and East Valley is adjacent.
“We understand we’re part of a greater Valley of the Sun as a whole,” Frisoni said. “Glendale is thrilled.”
Yes, Glendale rocks. But on the night before the game, if you want to see Chris Rock (bestdamnsuperbowlpartyperiod.com), you’ve got to have two things: $750, or $1,000 for VIP admission.
And you have to be in Scottsdale.