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Phoenix rising as a sports city

Kai Ryssdal Feb 7, 2008

Phoenix rising as a sports city

Kai Ryssdal Feb 7, 2008


KAI RYSSDAL: Phoenix, Arizona got a post-Super Bowl boost yesterday. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns announced they’ve traded for Shaquille O’Neal. The guy might be a little bit past his prime, but he is 7-foot-1 and he does weigh 325 pounds, so he’s still a force to be reckoned with. At a press conference in Phoenix today he all but promised big things.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: Start selling the t-shirts now. All the marketing people I’m giving you this one for free. The sun will rise in Phoenix.

KAI RYSSDAL: It’s been a big week for the capital of the Grand Canyon state, and Diana Nyad says things there are only going to get better. Hey Diana.

DIANA NYAD: Kai what’s going on?

RYSSDAL: Not much, but you heard the big man say it. Phoenix will rise. What do you think?

NYAD: You know I actually think he’s a little behind the times. He’s talking about the Suns, but when he talks about Phoenix and sports, Phoenix has risen. I mean this place is touted now as the sports mecca of America. You know Kai, look, you know you would think what idiot sports organizers would want to plan on the same weekend as the Super Bowl, in the same town as the Super Bowl, the grandaddy, the top of the mountain of all sporting events, who would plan another sporting event? Well the extremely popular PGA event, men’s golf, the FBR Open played the same weekend, and you know what? At the end of the count of attendance 500,000 people — more, actually were at that golf tournament over those four days, which is really about the same number who attended the Super Bowl. It was a wild weekend for sports.

RYSSDAL: Alright, but you know there’s this other thing that happens in this country, baseball, and Arizona’s home to the Cactus League, spring training for a lot of teams. What about that?

NYAD: You got 12 teams already there. The Dodgers have already announced, not for this spring training but by next year, they’re going to be, you know, in town, close by Phoenix. Evidently the Indians are looking to go there. To my mind, the big picture Kai is what happened, is when 9/11 came down, the leaders of business in Phoenix decided that they were going to put a lot of their city dollars, their tax revenue, towards sports, and they started building. They built it and everybody’s coming.

RYSSDAL: What about that though, I mean you know the stadium out there, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, it’s gorgeous to look at, state of the art, but it is tax-payer financed. Is the city and the surrounding area getting its money back now?

NYAD: Well if you look at the, you know, those real simple sort of macro numbers, the stadium cost $455 million. The Super Bowl alone brought in more than $400 million, so you know you can just look at it you know tit-for-tat and say OK that got paid for in what three hours? Now I guess there are, you know, economics professors who will break it down and say, yeah well it’s not a model that works you know in every city across America, but in Phoenix there’s a group of business men called “The Thunderbirds,” they’re are convinced, that especially because of the good weather, that you know building these stadia, at least in this particular environment, is definitely worth it for the taxpayers of Phoenix.

RYSSDAL: So what’s coming up for Phoenix? I mean the Super Bowl now is old hat.

NYAD: The Super Bowl is old hat but you know Phoenix is going to host the NBA All Star Game next year. The Dodgers are coming into town to you know use Phoenix as their spring training next year. There’s a big push courting the NCAA for a Final Four Showdown down the road. Usually that isn’t orchestrated for five or six years, you know in advance, but the bonanza is in full swing in Phoenix, you know all sports, all the time, all year, and the Super Bowl was just sort of a metaphor for how big the sports community is down there, and how successful it is.

RYSSDAL: Alright quickly now, what do you think are the Sun’s chances though, to get back to Shaq?

NYAD: I guess I feel like a lot of people do. You know basketball fans who love Shaq and love his whole mojo, know that he’s in the twilight of his career. Doesn’t mean that he can’t still, you know manage and control under the basket, but the great quality of the Phoenix Suns is their speed and if they play Shaq-ball, they’re going to have to play slow-ball so I’m not sure, entirely sure it’s going to be a great basketball move, pure basketball move.

RYSSDAL: Diana Nyad and the business of sports. Thank you Diana.

NYAD: Kai thank you so much.

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