By Steve Rivera –
Expecting A Second-Year Smash
When Ali Farhang stepped up to the microphone at a recent press conference to announce the return of the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, the founder and chair of the game waxed poetic about the success of the first year and how it’ll be bigger and better in Year Two.
Then he said – perhaps more importantly – it’s a game “by us and for us.” And voilà the unofficial slogan debuted. This is a game generated by Tucson for locals, driven by locals and to be enjoyed by locals who love football and fun. It just happens to be for selected Mountain West and Sun Belt conference teams.
“It is more than just a turn of a phrase,” Farhang said. “By us and for us is a genuine gesture of the love and pride we have for our community and the great people that make it positively the best place in the world to live. This is more than just a game. It’s an event to showcase the best of us.”
For Year Two, the game’s ownership has changed from the Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission to the nonprofit TD4Tucson. Still, ASEC will continue to assist. The money made here will be spent here.
TD4Tucson plans to make it even more successful than last year when more than 20,000 fans witnessed Nevada defeat Colorado State, 28-23, on what was an uncharacteristically cold night at Arizona Stadium.
The first improvement will be the game being moved to the afternoon on Dec. 30.
It will allow for Tucson to show off one of its greatest assets – its excellent winter weather. “Reliable sources have promised 68 degrees and sunny for kickoff,” Farhang joked.
What’s definite is Arizona has ramped up its forces to make Year Two a good one. Former University of Arizona Coach Dick Tomey has signed on as a consultant. There are more than 40 members on the advisory board (mainly local business executives). And longtime sports consultant Mike Feder is the new executive director. Feder spent last year as a volunteer for the inaugural game and hopes the board exceeds 50 people by the time the game nears.
“It’s a really good group and that’s what makes this enjoyable,” Feder said. “Everybody’s got the right thoughts in mind in making this something special for Tucson. We’re raising money for charity. It just feels good when you’re with the right people. Everybody has what is the best interest of the bowl.
“We have to reach out to people. We can’t simply let them come to us. We need to let them use their connections in the community.”
Last year, the Arizona Bowl raised $85,000 for charities. It gave $75,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson.
Now, it’s the group’s mission to go out and find more sponsors and fans to help. Feder said. “You can’t quantify things by numbers – but you can by dollars.
“Families or businesses can go and get four tickets, it all counts. Ultimately you’re putting together this big puzzle.”
There are corporate goals, sponsorships, advertising, halftime show and a downtown party to pay for, and ticket sales to chase. It’s no easy task. The good thing is that the locals have had at least nine more months to get going on it. Last year, it was a tight schedule to pull off given that the bowl game was approved just three months prior to the game.
“I am frankly still not certain how we were able to pull the game off in the manner that we did in such a limited time frame last year,” Farhang said. “But we could not have been more pleased with the overwhelming gracious and positive responses we received regarding the game and related events. With the luxury of more time, we feel we can build on the foundation of the first year and simply continue getting better.”
Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson, said. “It was incredible to see the bowl game get pulled off.”
The city benefited by seeing Tucson’s hotel revenue grow by 18 percent on the night before the game and game night, DeRaad said.
“The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically slow from a tourism standpoint in Tucson because of the lack of business meetings during the holidays,” DeRaad said. “The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl provided a welcome lodging uptick in Year One and we believe the impact will only grow in Year Two and beyond.”
Feder said the economic impact was more than $16 million. “That’s enormous,” he said.
NOVA Home Loans chairman and CEO Jon Volpe sees the benefit. It’s one of the reasons he jumped on board for his company to be the title sponsor. Ever the businessman and die-hard community advocate, Volpe wanted to help his longtime friend Farhang and simultaneously give the game a boost.
“The opportunity to be the title sponsor made sense from a business, community and brand standpoint,” said Volpe. “First, NOVA Home Loans was founded by Ray Desmond in Tucson 35 years ago. Our corporate headquarters are here, our leadership team is here, and we’ve served thousands of families here. When we heard this game could bring so many good things to our community, we opened the door to discuss it with the bowl leadership. Tucson is one of our largest markets and having our brand associated with such a community-driven event could only increase our market share.”