By Norman Sklarewitz
Among domestic destinations, Arizona may not jump to mind among all agents as a glamour state. However, if it perhaps lacks a reputation for high-profile events replete with celebrities, breathless television coverage and tabloid stories, that’s fine with the state’s active tourism industry. It’s happy to offer visitors a wide range of Western experiences, top-notch accommodations and this year in particular some significant events.
Among the most important of these is the 2019 Centennial that commemorates 100 years of the National Park Service at Grand Canyon and at the same times acknowledges Grand Canyon’s significant cultural history and relationship with the park’s 11 traditionally associated tribes. Goal of the commemoration is not only to honor the past but inspire future generations to experience, connect with and protect the canyon’s unique resources.
Throughout this entire year will be special programs and events, actually a difference line-up each month giving visitors a special opportunity to be part of this historic event no matter when they visit Arizona. Being presented this March 5 in the Elks Theatre Performing Arts Center in Prescott is “Teddy Roosevelt ; The Man in the Arena.” The award-winning actor, Derek Evans, brings to life the 26thPresident of the United States. This month and through Sept. 22. “100 years of Grand Canyon” is an on-line presentation by the Arizona State University, the Northern Arizona University and the Grand Canyon National Park that showcases archival materials from the early years of Grand Canyon.
For baseball fans, March is the height of spring training for Major League teams with the action centered in the metropolitan Phoenix area. Until March 26, visitors can enjoy seeing their favorite team close-up. Says Doug MacKenzie with Visit Phoenix, “These aren’t just pick-up games. All the major league rules and regulations are observed.”
A schedule of games involving 15 teams is played at 10 different ball fields, all located a short drive from area hotels and resorts. “As many as 1.3 million fans will enjoy the games this year,” says MacKenzie. Ticket prices are as low as $8. It’s common for die-hard fans to come out as early as 10 or 11 in the morning to watch players work-out and get a chance to take pictures of their favorites or get autographs. For rookie players hoping to get signed up with a major league team, these games are a chance to impress coaches. “To them it’s serious business,” says MacKenzie. Game time is usually 1 pm. And while it’s down the road yet, the All State Stadium in Glendale outside Phoenix will host NFL’s Super Bowl LIV (54) on Feb. 2, 2023 and the Final Four of the men’s NCAA tournament April 6-8, 2024 at the same Stadium.
It’s no secret that it gets hot – very hot, at times – in mid-summer in Arizona. And not too long ago, many resorts simply close down for the summer because not enough visitors would come to justify keeping open. Those days are gone. Says Marjorie Magnusson with the Arizona Office of Tourism, “Nobody shuts down any more.” For visitors, visiting mid-season that means hitting the first tee for a round of golf early in the morning when it’s still cool, then taking up at the swimming pool after the final hole plus they’ll enjoy much lower room rates at resorts and hotels.
And when it comes to turning what ordinarily would be a disaster in terms of tourism appeal into a plus, Lake Havasu City takes the prize. The temperature there hit 128 F on June 29, 1994. Instead of admitted that record for fear of frightening away visitors, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is promoting the 25thanniversary of that day this year as “America’s Hottest Party”.
Among the city’s attractions will be the World Off-Road Championships: Motorcycles on the March 1-3 weekend. Events will take place at the Crazy Horse campgrounds.
Reflecting the industry’s general optimism about business is a series of major property renovations and upgrades.
In Scottsdale this year, The Phoenician wrapped up a three-year long renovation, largest since the resort opened 30 years ago. Says a spokesperson, “Virtually every part of the property has been touched.” (Management doesn’t disclose the cost, though.)
Starting in 2016 all 645 guestrooms and casita accommodations were redesigned along with a complete remodel of The Canyon Suites, along with a make-over of the main lobby and pool cabanas. The next year it was time for public areas to get redesigned and upgraded. This included the Thirsty Camel Lounge and Terrace, the Afternoon Tea Room, the Shops, new restaurants and new features for the pools.
Last was a big year with the construction of a new three-story facility at the Phoenician Golf Course along with redesigning and rerouting the course from 27 to 18 holes, adding a rooftop pool, a 4,600- square foot Fitness Center, a game room, tennis, pickleball and half-court basketball facilities plus a Relish Burger Bistro.
Says General Manager Mark Vinciguerra. “With this resort-wide transformation, we have created a more approachable, relaxing style that blends contemporary inspiration with our natural, Sonoran legacy.”
In celebration of the 90th Anniversary of The Wigwam, the Litchfield Park resort will be hosting an array of activities for guests. Given its opening in 1929, it’s not surprising that many of these recall the “Roaring 20s.” For starters, there’s the Throwback Movie Series screening “retro” films to be held at the Tower Pool every Friday and Saturday evening this summer. There’s also a “Drive-in” movie night scheduled for March 9 on the Front Lawn. Then on March 23 and April 20, guests and locals are invited to turn out in “Great Gatsby” dress to relive the 1920s. Bar drinks will be renamed to honor such era figures as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.