Phoenix: Sportstown America by Ron Kapon

There are 12 cities in the U.S.A. with professional teams in all four major league sports: basketball, football, baseball and hockey. One of those cities is the fifth largest in population (1.4 million). That city hosted the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) football game and will be the host city for the 2008 Super Bowl. Over 16 million tourists visited that city in 2005. There are 200 golf courses in the area and the state in which the city is located is now the fastest growing state in America. In addition, it is the headquarters for four major league teams. Welcome to Greater Phoenix Arizona.

Who Are We: Greater Phoenix has a population of 3.6 million and consists of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Adjacent Mesa is the third largest city in the state with a population of 400,000 (Tucson is number two). The baseball and basketball teams play in downtown Phoenix adjacent to the newly expanded (triple its size) Convention Center. The football and hockey teams stadium are in Glendale, some 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. There is also an arena football and WNBA team and two NASCA races. Nine major league baseball teams use Greater Phoenix for its Cactus League Spring Training every March.



What to See: Downtown- The aforementioned Convention Center will be completed by late 2008 and will contain 900,000 square feet of exhibit space. Within walking distance is the Phoenix Museum of History- where one can trace the history of the city. You’ll also enjoy the hands-on Arizona Science Museum with 300 interactive exhibits (filled with kids the day I visited). Both the History & Science Museums are located within Heritage Square with many restaurants and gift shops. The Phoenix Art Museum & Heard Museum are also downtown. The Heard shows the history of the various Native American tribes that lived in the state with a collection of Native American art and artifacts. Construction for the light rail system, which starts at the airport and runs 20 miles to Tempe, will be completed in late 2008.
Near Downtown- Just outside Papago Park (1,200 acres of rolling desert hills and rugged mountains) is the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park with the platform mounds once used as a village larger than 10,000 of the Hohokam Indians. The Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens (containing over 20,000 plants) are inside the park. I happened upon a special tour called “Taste of the Desert” given every Saturday at Noon and 2PM. It is followed by a tasting party of Mesquite, Prickly Pear, Saguaro and Agave; yummy! Close by is the city of Tempe, home to Arizona State University, the largest university in the state and Tempe Town Lake.
Farther South- the Gila Indian community has built the Wild Horse Pass Casino, golf course and hotel. They also own the land where Rawhide, a recreation of an 1880’s western town complete with mechanical bull, gunfights and stagecoach rides, is located. Nearby is the 16,000 acre South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the world.

Downtown Scottsdale- Only Santa Fe, New Mexico, competes with this upscale city for the title of Art Capital of the Southwest. Take the free trolley from Fashion Square into Old Town Scottsdale with its antique stores, restaurants, 100 art galleries. Every Thursday night is Art walk with most of the galleries open and serving snacks. Nearby is Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright. The 600-acre complex was built almost completely by hand so as not to disturb the natural surroundings and was his winter home.

North & West- The aforementioned Glendale was the site of the BCS football championship game and will host the 2008 Super Bowl. The University of Phoenix stadium is the first in North America to feature a retractable roof and a roll-out grass field. Sun Cities were the first planned retirement community for upscale residents 55 and older.



Where To Stay– There are many Five Star properties in the area, I am only listing those I visited. I stayed at the Westin Kierland Resort that was built 5 years ago in Scottsdale next to the Kierland Commons Shopping Center. They will be home to one of the two Super Bowl teams. Spa, conference center, fitness center, 9,000 square foot water park, 27 holes of golf, and don’t forget the Heavenly Bed & Shower. The Phoenician- Stayed here last time in town; casitas, lodges, overlooks Camelback Mountain, the city’s most famous landmark. Arizona Biltmore Resort- Built in 1929 was Phoenix’s first resort and operated for 43 years by the Wrigley Chewing Gum family. Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort- on Gila River Indian land. There are Native American artifacts everywhere. Take a canal boat to Rawhide, the casino or golf course. Four Seasons Hotel- In Northern Scottsdale with Hotel and Residence Villas built into the desert landscape.

Where to Eat & Drink- I’ve only mentioned places I visited. The only Wine Spectator Grand Award winning restaurant wine list is at the Phoenician’s Mary Elaine with 2,200 wines and 300 ½ bottles (we single diners salute you). Master Sommelier Greg Tresner works here. Cowboy Ciao opened 10 years ago (American food and 3,000 wines), Kazimierz World Wine Bar & Sea Saw (Japanese) all have a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence and have the same ownership. Vincent Guerithault on Camelback- overlooks the mountain and has 1,180 wines on their list. Classic French and another Best of Award of Excellence. Deseo- Latin-influenced cuisine at the Westin Kierland Hotel. One of the best dinners and service I have ever had. Not to be missed is the area’s only ceviche and Muddle Bar. At another level try Greasewood Flats in North Scottsdale- a biker beer, hamburger “joint” with dirt floors and lots of atmosphere.