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The Super Bowl in Arizona –­ a short history

Super Bowl XLIX football logoArizona’s involvement with the annual NFL Super Bowl extravaganza spans decades.

Behind the crowds and hype of Arizona’s third Super Bowl exists a history of legislation and debate. Swirled in controversy, Super Bowl-mania has taken hold even in the depths of the Arizona Capitol.

1987-1993
Tempe is set to hold the 1993 Super Bowl, partly because the National Football League wants to provide a boost to the struggling Arizona Cardinals football franchise. However, a controversy arises in 1987 after Gov. Evan Mecham rescinds Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday in Arizona, saying it had been created illegally by former Gov. Bruce Babbitt. Nevertheless, the NFL awards the Super Bowl to Tempe in March 1990, after the Legislature agrees to let voters decide whether to restore the holiday. In November 1990, Arizonans narrowly reject MLK Day. The NFL abruptly switches Super Bowl XXVII to Pasadena, Calif.

1992-1996
NFL owners continue to put pressure on the Arizona Legislature. Lawmakers put the MLK holiday on the ballot for a second time, and in 1992 voters approve it by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. In March 1993, the NFL awards Super Bowl XXX to Tempe. It is played in Sun Devil Stadium in 1996.

May 2000:
Maricopa County voters approve funds for a new Arizona Cardinals football stadium that is crucial in attracting future Super Bowl games.

2003
The NFL awards the 2008 Super Bowl to Glendale.

January 29, 2008
Attorney General Terry Goddard cautions Arizona residents that Super Bowl XLII tickets bought from unofficial vendors might not be legitimate tickets, explaining that Arizona law says people can sell tickets at least 200 feet from the Super Bowl stadium.

February 3, 2008
The West Valley’s first Super Bowl featuring the New York Giants and the New England Patriots is played in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

May 2013
Gov. Jan Brewer with the help of co-chair, Cindy McCain, decides to create a 15-member task force to reduce human trafficking and attack Arizona’s sex trade industry in time for the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale. McCain asserts that the Super Bowl is one of the largest human trafficking events in the world.

January 2014
Arizona’s SB1062 temporarily threatens the 2015 Glendale Super Bowl. The law in question would allow businesses to use their religion as a basis to refuse service to gays and others. The NFL voices its concerns about the bill and Brewer vetoes it, averting a possible location switch.

February 2014
Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces plans to send an all-female chain gang to clean up state land during the 2015 Super Bowl events in order to send a message about driving under the influence. With the prisoners decked in bright pink shirts and black and white stripes, the display also has a pink arrow pointing at the women that says “Party Too Hardy and You End Up Here.”

March 2014
The city of Phoenix and the NFL announce that, while the actual game will be played in Glendale, “Super Bowl Central” will be located in downtown Phoenix. Lawmakers express their excitement at hosting the slew of events and about the economic benefits that come with the Super Bowl madness.

April 22, 2014
HB2454, a bill ramping up penalties on human trafficking cases, is signed by the governor. The legislation was championed by Brewer and Cindy McCain in an effort to target the industry before 2015’s Super Bowl.

The Arizona Senate shoots down HB2547, a bill that would have created the Major Event Public Safety Reimbursement Fund. It would have used state money to reimburse Glendale or any local community with 50 percent (or up to $2 million) of the money spent providing public safety for a “major event.” The proposed legislation is set to self-repeal on January 1, 2016, and, although it didn’t explicitly say so in the bill, it would really only apply to the 2015 Super Bowl because no other Arizona event during that time period could be characterized as a “major event.”

February 1, 2015
Super Bowl XLIX – Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots – will be played in Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium.

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