Phoenix was named the second best sports town in the country by Men’s Journal, a monthly magazine that claims a circulation topping 665,000.
The top five U.S. destinations for those who like to watch and play sports were listed in the June issue.
The plug should capture the attention of lots of sports and recreation enthusiasts looking for a new vacation spot, said Douglas MacKenzie, spokesman for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"In our opinion, it is great for tourism," MacKenzie said. "It validates that we are a premier destination with excellent outdoor adventures and great natural beauty."
According to Men’s Journal’s editors, Los Angeles is the top spot for sports enthusiasts, followed by Phoenix, Miami, San Diego and Seattle.
The magazine considered quantity and quality of professional sports, college sports, golf courses, gyms, opportunities for other outdoor activities and a cooperative climate in rating the destinations.
"One of the many reasons visitors keep the Greater Phoenix destination top-of-mind is the excitement of the outdoors, the 200-plus golf courses, and the amount of pro sports played here," MacKenzie said. "With another NASCAR race next year, the second Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in January, spring training, and the 2008 Super Bowl, the destination is prepared for record numbers of sports enthusiasts to visit the area."
Tempe has been touting the Valley’s desirability to sports enthusiasts for a few years with a focused effort to lure amateur matches as well as hawking the pro matches.
Youth sporting events helped shore up the city’s tourism for the past year despite a dismal year for the travel industry nationwide, said Stephanie Nowack, president of the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It was one of the hottest years of all for spring training," Nowack said. But wooing vacationers to the Valley in March is not so difficult. Amateur sports packed the city’s inns during less busy months, she said.
Among the highlights, the PF Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in January attracted 29,000 runners and filled hotels near the Tempe finish line, Nowack said. The Tempe Soccer Club generated 3,000 room nights near Thanksgiving. The Western zone swimming championships had a $500,000 impact on the city’s tourism trade.
And an Amateur Athletic Union girl’s basketball tourney this month, with an estimated 1,200 players, could have a $2 million economic impact, she said. Tempe signed a contract with the league to host the event for two years, said Kati Winter, the bureau’s sports marketing manager.
"The focus on amateur athletics is right on target," said Tom Kreitler, general manager of the Holiday Inn Phoenix-Tempe ASU. "A soccer tournament in downtime, and getting the finish line of the marathon is tremendous."
As a bonus, the sportsminded tourists are big shoppers, boosting retail sales taxes as well as bed taxes, said Denise Hart, marketing director for Arizona Mills Mall.
"We get a lot of the sports fans in the mall. We can tell by their shirts and hats," Hart said. "And we saw a significant increase in sales at sporting goods stores for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon."
Sports lovers fill up rooms in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort during and after major events, said Carole Carter, spokeswoman. The 651-room upscale inn sprawls alongside the Tournament Player Club, site of the annual FBR Open, the PGA’s most-attended tour event.
The golf tourney is a weeklong draw in January, but the Fairmont also fields many calls for reservations from amateur golfers who watch it on TV and want to come and play the local links themselves, Carter said.
The resort also stages the annual pro tennis tourney, ATP Arizona Men’s Championship, and hosts a team for the Tostitos’ Fiesta Bowl, one of college football’s top annual match-ups and a participant in the rotation for the national championship.
"Obviously having the cachet of being the official hotel for these sporting events helps our reputation as a destination that offers quality and exciting sports events," Carter said.
And getting the nod from Men’s Journal may persuade a whole new batch of travelers to check out Scottsdale and the Valley, she said.
"Much of our (sportsminded) audience is maledominant," she said.