Nothing stays the same. But the Super Bowl hasn’t changed much in recent years — it just gets bigger.
In 1996, the last time the Valley hosted the world’s largest single sporting event, about 100,000 people showed up.
This week, we’ll make room for an extra 50,000 visitors.
A horde of 3,000 credentialed journalists reported on every aspect of the game 12 years ago. There will be 500 more on hand for Super Bowl XLII.
The NFL Experience, the league’s moving theme park, will draw 175,000 people.
The championship game Feb. 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale is a far cry from the first Super Bowl, which failed to sell out the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and was viewed by 60 million people. Tickets to the modern game never even officially go on sale — most are distributed through the NFL — and more than a billion people around the world are expected to watch the game on television.
For a bowl called super, bigger was inevitable.
“That’s kind of human nature,” said Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. “Everyone wants to make it a little bit better than the year before.”
And better typically translates to more money for the host city. Kennedy, founding partner of the Phoenix law firm Gallagher & Kennedy, also served on the host committee for the 1996 game.
That committee had the daunting task of raising $4 million to pay all the Super Bowl’s bills. For this year’s game, Kennedy and the rest of the host committee were stuck with a tab more than three times as large: $13 million.
“You’ve got a job and you’ve got an idea,” Kennedy said. “But you don’t have any money.”
The committee spent four years raising the funds from companies, such as US Airways, and government agencies, such as the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Kennedy said it’s easier to gain sponsors when people want to visit the host city. The publicity that the Valley gained from the 1996 Super Bowl encouraged people to move here in greater numbers, Kennedy said.
So while the Super Bowl has changed little in 12 years, the region hosting it has changed a great deal.
“Obviously, it’s a different Valley that we were selling then,” Kennedy said.
Phoenix and surrounding cities have all become much bigger.
However, they’ve also become far more diverse, mature and densely inhabited, said Patricia Gober, an Arizona State University geographer.
Gober has studied the Valley’s recent development and found the Hispanic population has grown “astronomically,” now making up 35 percent of residents. Also, the average lot size is shrinking, with more people living in tighter quarters.
“This is not any longer the poster child for urban sprawl,” Gober said. “It’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Manhattan or Chicago. But Phoenix is right in the middle of cities in terms of density of population.”