NFL-For fans, the Super Bowl is no longer a game, it’s an ‘experience’

By Steve Keating

PHOENIX (Reuters) – In just half a century of development, the Super Bowl has gone from a sporting event to America’s biggest party to a week-long and very expensive immersive “experience”.

This includes not just the game, but more immersive encounters where you can take a sunrise hike up Camelback Mountain with a retired NFL player or have a few beers with former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Bruschi.

Next year will almost certainly take another leap as “immersive experience” and “party” in Las Vegas morph into a major Super Bowl supernova as Sin City hosts the game for the first time.

After Los Angeles hosted last year, it’s almost as if the National Football League took a breather in Phoenix while Las Vegas is on deck for 2024 and New Orleans for 2025.

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t help but look ahead and push the already sky-high expectations even higher.

“I think I would be making a mistake if I underestimated everything that’s happening in Vegas and how big it can be,” Goodell said during his State of the League address.

While Phoenix doesn’t have the glitz and oomph of Los Angeles or Las Vegas, it was the ideal location for this year’s Super Bowl, said Brian Wilder, executive vice president of sports experiences and fan engagement at On Location, the official hospitality partner of the NFL.

“When we looked at Phoenix, we saw a huge opportunity, especially from Los Angeles,” Wilder told Reuters. “In Los Angeles, corporate business hadn’t quite returned from the pandemic because they have to plan so far ahead.

“Leading Phoenix with the pandemic in the rearview mirror was a return to the company that we didn’t see in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles was a lot of fan demand, SoFi Stadium is amazing, but Phoenix, so many corporate clients love going to Arizona all year round, not just for the Super Bowls, and we saw a great opportunity and they did was there.”

For most people in Phoenix, the closest thing to the Super Bowl is whizzing past the NFL Fan Zone ($40 adults, kids under 12 free) or Glendale Stadium on Highway 101.

Even with an average price of $3,200 on resale site StubHub, your ticket to Sunday’s National Football League championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles may still be the most affordable product in your Super Bowl experience.

A table on the stage at Sports Illustrated’s Super Bowl party, featuring performances by Machine Gun Kelly and the Chainsmokers, fetches a whopping $100,000, while the same table at Shaq’s Fun House hosts a meet-and-greet with NBA star Shaquille O ‘ included. Neal, would cost you $50,000.

On Location offers packages ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 that can include everything from super yoga to a day of golf at one of Arizona’s premier golf courses, Troon Golf Club.

In the evening there is a long list of concerts with artists from Snoop Dogg to Sheryl Crow, or dine with celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri or Chris Bianco, where you can eat pizza and have your photo taken with the Lombardi trophy.

“If you look back 10 years ago, the Super Bowl was all about the game and now it’s much, much more,” Wilder said. “The NFL now views it as more than just a game, it’s a whole experience that precedes the game.”

For John Wegman, a Rochester businessman and Buffalo Bills season ticket holder, attending the Super Bowl was on his bucket list.

He’ll be at the game on Sunday, but his Super Bowl also had a concert and a round of golf where he lost a $100 bet with former NFL receiver Golden Tate on who could get his tee shot closest to the hole.

“The experience is amazing,” enthused Wegman. “The Super Bowl with my dad, mom and brother was a bucket list thing and we’re doing it in style.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Phoenix; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)


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