© Reuters. Workers prepare the stadium for Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, U.S., February 11, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Steve Keating
PHOENIX (Reuters) – In just half a century of evolution, the Super Bowl has gone from a sporting event, to the biggest party in America, to a week-long and very expensive all-inclusive “experience.”
This includes not only the game, but deeper encounters where you can take a sunrise hike up Camelback Mountain with a retired NFL player or have a few “beers” with former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Bruschi.
Next year will almost certainly take another leap when the “immersive experience” and “entertainment” turn into one big Super Bowl supernova in Las Vegas, as Sin City hosts the game for the first time.
After Los Angeles hosted last year, it’s almost as if the National Football League took a break in Phoenix with Las Vegas set for 2024 and New Orleans on deck for 2025.
Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t help but look ahead, raising already incredibly high expectations.
“I think I would be wrong to underestimate everything that’s going on in Vegas and how big it can be,” Goodell said during his state of the league address.
While Phoenix doesn’t have the glitz and pizzazz of Los Angeles or Las Vegas, it was an ideal location for this year’s Super Bowl, said Brian Wilder, executive vice president of sports experiences and fan engagement for On Location, the NFL’s official hospitality partner.
“When we were watching Phoenix, especially coming from Los Angeles, we saw a big opportunity,” Wilder told Reuters. “In Los Angeles, coming out of the pandemic, corporate business hasn’t quite come back yet because they have to plan so far ahead.
“Having the lead up to Phoenix with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, it allowed for a return to corporate business that we hadn’t seen in Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles has been a ton of fan demand, SoFi Stadium is amazing, but Phoenix, so a lot of corporate clients like to go to Arizona year-round, not just Super Bowls, and we saw a great opportunity and it came up.”
For most people in Phoenix, the closest thing to the Super Bowl will be the NFL Fan Zone ($40 for adults, kids 12 and under free) or a quick drive past Glendale Stadium on the 101 Freeway.
Even at $3,200, the average price on resale site StubHub, your ticket to Sunday’s National Football League championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles could be the cheapest item in your Super Bowl experience.
A stage table at Sports Illustrated’s Super Bowl Party, featuring performances by Machine Gun Kelly and the Chainsmokers, costs a whopping $100,000, while the same table at Shaq’s Fun House, which included a meet-and-greet with host NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, would return you $50,000.
On Location offers packages from $5,000 to $50,000 that can be tricked out to include everything from Super Yoga to a day of golf at one of Arizona’s best courses, Troon Golf Club.
In the evenings there is a long list of concerts to choose from with artists like Snoop Dogg to Sheryl Crow or dine with celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri or Chris Bianco, where you can eat pizza and have your photo taken with the Lombardi trophy.
“If you go back 10 years ago, the Super Bowl was just a game, and now it’s much, much more,” Wilder said. “The NFL now looks at it as more than a game, it’s the whole experience leading up to the game.”
For John Wegman, a Rochester businessman and Buffalo Bills season ticket holder, seeing the Super Bowl was on his bucket list.
He’ll be at the game Sunday, but his Super Bowl also featured a concert and a round of golf that included losing a $100 bet with former NFL wide receiver Golden Tate on who could get the first shot closest to the hole.
“The experience is extraordinary,” Wegman said. “The Super Bowl with my father, my mother, my brother was a bucket list item and we’re doing it in style.”