In a way, Glendale is Arizona’s answer to the New York Giants. You never saw us coming. But suddenly, by gosh, we’ve got a Super Bowl, and you don’t!
Yes, I’m part of that “we.” When my family moved to Glendale from New York in 1973, I was 10 years old — totally without veto power — and there were less than 50,000 people in what would become my city.
Over the last three decades, we’ve both grown — granted, not always in the most attractive ways — and established ourselves as adults.
Glendale is only nine miles from downtown Phoenix, but thanks to our crowded, ill-conceived freeways, it is advisable to pack a lunch when attempting to access our fair borough during heavy traffic times. (Many East Valley folks are convinced Glendale is such a time investment for entertainment that you might as well settle in, press down on the gas pedal and shoot for Disneyland.)
Admittedly, finding a good time here in the previous millennium wasn’t easy. Unless you are big on antiques (downtown Glendale is a haven), fighter jet noise from Luke Air Force Base or strip malls anchored by gas stations, we didn’t have much to offer Joe Tourist.
Glendale was the biggest Valley city without Cactus League baseball (heck, even Maryvale had one), so the idea that sports would be the engine to kick-start the city was as likely as a stadium where the football field sits in the parking lot 320 days a year.
But then-Coyotes owner Steve Ellman met up with the Scottsdale City Council. And several years of entertaining mudslinging later, all this big construction equipment was headed our way.
Well, look at us now:
• Wayne Gretzky coaches the “Phoenix” Coyotes (one day, we’re told, they’re going to be pretty good) in the impressively conceived Jobing.com Arena, which has lured the Valley’s top concerts westward with regularity. Great hockey? Not so much.
• Next door is University of Phoenix Stadium. We know, the name is as baffling as how we got the place. It is the home for the Arizona Cardinals — who won as many games as they lost this year, I kid you not — as well as the Fiesta Bowl, BCS championship game and, of utmost importance to those reading this, next Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII.
Miami. New Orleans. San Diego. Glendale. Nice neighborhood.
• That’s not all. In 2009, not one but two Cactus League teams (the Dodgers and White Sox) will set up shop in a new spring training site just two cutoff throws away from the rest of Glendale’s sports-a-palooza.
Along with the stadiums came the sprawling Westgate City Center, which has a fountain experience like the Bellagio, billboards the size of Times Square and, supposedly when completed, will boast 6.5 million square feet of retail space (including the half-dozen Starbucks I’m penciling in).
So far, less than a third of that is completed, but with a Fox Sports Grill, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Yardhouse and other restaurants sprinkled among specialty shops and a movie theater, the experience for the visiting sports fan or tourist already includes plenty of bells and whistles.
When you’re done running yourself ragged at the NFL Experience, which sets up shop in the stadium parking lot, Westgate is just a short stagger away (no bathing in the fountains, please).
Not enough sensory overload? Check out the annual Glendale Chocolate Affaire in downtown Glendale (Feb. 1-2), which this year will include a 300-pound chocolate football. Don’t mistake it for the stadium when you are driving by.
If you want to back away from the epicenter of Super Bowl-mania, head north five miles on Loop 101 to Arrowhead Towne Center (or as we locals call it “the mall”).
Not only does it offer shopping and food aplenty, but everything from ice and roller rinks to go-kart racing.
So to our out-of-town guests and those from around the Valley who choose to put aside their preconceived notions, welcome to my town.
Leave early. Stay late. Eat and drink like crazy.
And please clean up behind you. Come Monday, we still have to live here.