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Arizona’s Spectacular Sports!

January 02, 2014

Arizona’s Spectacular Sports!

From football to auto racing, Arizona is a sports playground

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Jan. 2, 2014) – Looking for a sports lover’s dream? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better location than Arizona, regular-season home to four major league teams, Spring Training baseball, professional golf tournaments, two college football bowl games, four major NCAA universities, the 2015 Super Bowl and the 2016 College Football Playoff Championship Game. 

The Big Four

When the Arizona Diamondbacks arrived on the scene in 1998, Phoenix joined the exclusive club of U.S. metropolitan areas with professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey franchises. Currently, there are just 12 such communities in America that can make that claim.

Baseball

Arizona fans fell in love with the National League’s Arizona Diamondbacks right off the bat, and the team’s 2001 World Series win over the New York Yankees still ranks as the most significant professional sports victory in state history. The D-backs’ downtown Phoenix stadium, Chase Field, has become a visitor attraction in itself. 

Basketball

Arizona’s original major league franchise, the Phoenix Suns, started play in the NBA in 1969 at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Today, the Suns play at U.S. Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) in downtown Phoenix.

Football

The nation's oldest continuously run NFL franchise (it got its start in 1898 as Morgan Athletic Club in Chicago) – the Arizona Cardinals began playing in Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006 after playing for nearly 20 years at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium when the franchise relocated from St. Louis in 1988.

Hockey

The former Winnipeg Jets moved from Canada and morphed into the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes in 1996. The “Desert Dogs” played at U.S. Airways Center from 1996 until Jobing.com Arena opened in Glendale in December 2003.

More Professional Teams

In addition to hosting the Suns, U.S. Airways Center is also home to the extremely popular Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury and the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, 2013 Arena Bowl Champions.  

Cactus League Baseball

Not only does Arizona have its own Major League Baseball team, every year from late February through early April, the state hosts 15 major league teams for Cactus League spring training. Cactus League baseball dates back to 1947 when the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants prepped for the rigors of the regular season in Arizona. Today, the 15 teams that comprise the Cactus League give the Phoenix metropolitan area the greatest concentration of professional baseball facilities found anywhere in the United States. 

Fall Baseball

The Phoenix area also is home to the Arizona Fall League, which runs from early October to late November. There are six teams in the Arizona Fall League: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters, Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros. Each August, Major League clubs hold a position draft to determine the players who will go to Arizona. Most are Double-A and Triple-A Minor League players. Each club can opt to send one player considered a Class A player. How good are the players in the Arizona Fall League? The 2013 MLB All-Star Game in New York featured 36 AFL alums, including five starting position players on each team and the American League's 2013 Cy Young Award-winner, Max Scherzer. 

College Athletics

Arizona is home to four NCAA major universities: the Arizona State University Sun Devils in Tempe, University of Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks in Flagstaff and Grand Canyon University Antelopes in Phoenix. ASU and UofA are both members of the Pac-12 Conference, while NAU competes in the Big Sky Conference and GCU in the Western Athletic Conference.

College Bowl Games

Arizona is host to two college football bowl games, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, held at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The Fiesta Bowl dates back to 1971 and was recently named part of the College Football Playoff that will begin in 2015. Additionally, Glendale will host the 2016 College Football Playoff Championship. The game will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday, January 11, 2016.

Golf

Arizona offers layouts of every configuration at more than 300 courses, making the state one of the world’s premier golf destinations. And, professional golf recognizes that state as a great location for major tournaments.

Arizona features several major professional tour events: the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the world’s best-attended golf tournament, held every January/February at TPC Stadium Course in  Scottsdale; the Accenture Match Play World Golf Championship each February at Dove Mountain in Marana; the LPGA Founders Cup each March at Wildfire Golf Club at the J.W. Marriott Resort at Desert Ridge in Phoenix; the Walgreen’s Charity Classic, part of the LPGA Legends 2014 Tour, in May at Grandview Golf Course in Sun City West; and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in October at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain.

Auto Racing

Phoenix International Raceway, located in Avondale west of Phoenix, celebrates its 50th year of hosting major auto races in 2014. PIR staged its first professional race on March 22, 1964 when, in front of a crowd of 7,000 spectators, A.J. Foyt led every lap on his way to victory in the Phoenix 100.  The race track has evolved many times over the ensuing 50 years and has hosted races for virtually every major sanctioning body in American motor sports, including USAC, CART, Indy Car, Motocross and NASCAR.

Today, PIR is most well-known as the host for two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends annually.  Phoenix stages the second race on the NASCAR calendar every spring immediately following the Daytona 500, the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500TM, and the semi-final race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the AdvoCare 500, each November.

Soccer

In 2013, the Phoenix Football Club Wolves began play in the United Soccer League and will embark on their second season beginning in March 2014. 

Jet Ski World Championships

The International Jets Sports Boating Association conducts its annual Hot Products World Finals every October in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Lake Havasu will once again host the international event October 4-12, 2014. 

USA Basketball

USA Basketball, the national governing body responsible for choosing the U.S. Olympic teams, has announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Tempe. The relocation from Colorado Springs is expected to take place by the end of 2015. The $350 million development project - USA Place - will be home to USA Basketball’s headquarters and training center, and will include a 4,500-seat event center, as well as a 330-room Omni Hotel and 30,000-square-foot conference center, 500 luxury apartments, 160,000 square feet of retail and up to 200,000 square feet of office space, including the new home for Arizona Interscholastic Association events.

Other Sports

The events and activities above merely scratch the surface of sports offerings to be found in Arizona. The state also hosts major triathlons, marathons, rodeos, cycling events, soccer tournaments and a wide array of other athletic events. A listing of events can be found at http://arizonaguide.com/events-calendar/sports

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 For More Information

For more information on this topic and others see the official Arizona travel and vacation guide from the Arizona Office of Tourism at www.arizonaguide.com. Find in-depth AZ visitor information and videos about visiting the state of Arizona, including comprehensive directories of Arizona hotels, dining and shopping, as well as things to do and places to visit throughout the Grand Canyon State.

 

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