It’s been nearly 50 years since the first bowl game was established in Scottsdale, and while at the time it was a simple mission to create post-season college games for locals, the Fiesta Bowl organization has grown into an impactful economic driver and community staple for Arizona.
History in the Making
Arizona certainly has a long-standing history of professional football, with the Arizona Cardinals joining the NFL ranks in 1920. But when nine individuals saw a need for a more community-based effort, they created a colligate level sporting event that not only would encourage athletic growth in the valley but would also extend further into the community, working to support and encourage education.
It’s that focus on the community that has made the Fiesta Bowl organization such a powerful economic driver for Arizona, giving the state exposure it hadn’t experienced before.
The Fiesta Bowl is a non-profit organization with a goal that extends far past sporting events. Executive Director Mike Neely talks about wanting to make a real economic impact on the valley, and the constant effort to give back to the community they work so hard to support.
“The bowl was started before there were a lot of professional teams in Arizona,” Mike says, which really made space for the organization to grow quickly. The unique non-profit organization is focused on a lot more than just sports, they work tirelessly to support and provide funding for education, creating outreach for youth programs, and funding a $1.2 million grant program for teachers.
It’s all about giving back to the community.
Hockey is a Cold Weather Sport
Not an Arizona native, we asked Mike what initially brought him to Phoenix. His answer was unexpected. “Hockey!” He said with a laugh. Having worked with a hockey team in his hometown in Minnesota, Mike traveled to Arizona to interview for a coaching job. Instantly impressed by the gorgeous weather and unique landscaping, Mike saw the incredible diversity, opportunity, and talent in the valley, and knew that it was something special.
When the first bowl was created, the organization made a strong push to spread a pro-community message, focusing on anti-drug education and non-profit support. So when we asked Mike which of the AZ 5 C’s he thought applied to the Fiesta Bowl, it seemed like an easy answer. “Community. It’s all about giving back to the community, we take pride in what we do for our community, we want our events to be successful so we can give back to people and see our economy grow.”
More Than Just a Sport
Since the founding of the Fiesta Bowl so many years ago, professional and colligate sports have grown immensely in the valley. Hockey, golf, and even soccer have made their way to Arizona; in 2014 the United Soccer Club came to the valley, now known as the Phoenix Rising, and has garnished a strong community following.
These sporting events do more than foster healthy competition and athleticism. They bring people together, create a sense of community unity, and support the economic growth of the state. These impactful steps towards development and progression remind us why we continue to cheer on our favorite Arizona teams.
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