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Giant pigskin kicks off Super Bowl home stretch in downtown Phoenix

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PHOENIX – In case anyone has forgotten that the Super Bowl is coming to the Valley in February, there’s now a 20-foot-tall reminder on a street corner downtown.

Mayor Greg Stanton joined members of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and others Monday to unveil a giant football as the cornerstone for Super Bowl Central festivities to be held here.

“It’s a social media icon. It’s a commercial and a postcard from downtown Phoenix,” said Jay Parry, president and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. “Fans will come from around the world and around Arizona to get their picture taken.”

The 7,000-pound creation of steel, wood and foam will occupy the corner of Washington Street and Central Avenue until the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Glendale has come and gone.

“Why wait until January? Let’s get this party started. We want to have fun with the next 83 days leading up to the Super Bowl,” Parry said at the unveiling. “Residents from Arizona can come down and create their Super Bowl memories long before the game even happens.”

Super Bowl Central will encompass 12 blocks, from Fifth Street to First Avenue and Jefferson to Monroe streets, with most of the area reserved for pedestrians. The attractions will include the NFL Experience, an interactive football theme park to be held at the Phoenix Convention Center as well as daily concerts and a nightly fireworks.

Parry said Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl Central will have an estimated $500 million economic impact in Arizona and attract nearly 1 million people from out of state.

“I think a lot of the same people come to Super Bowl every year, so I think we’re going to get a lot of those same travelers coming to Arizona and participating,” she said.

Stanton said people want to be part of the excitement and that Super Bowl Central is the way to get them to participate without having to spend thousands of dollars on game tickets.

“We want fans who are as excited as we are about the upcoming game to come down and get a feel for the excitement,” Stanton said. “Most of the people coming downtown are not going to have a ticket to the game.”

This is the third time in 19 years that Arizona will be hosting the Super Bowl, and Stanton said that it is one of the most positive opportunities a city can get. He said that Phoenix and the host committee are going to take full advantage of being the host, especially if the Arizona Cardinals make it to the big game.

“If our 8-1 hometown team, the Arizona Cardinals, make it, it’s going to be one heck of a party here in the heart of the city,” Stanton said, laughing after he clarified that he and backup-turned-starting quarterback Drew Stanton aren’t related.

According to Stanton, if the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl nearly 2 million people will come to Super Bowl Central and that hotels will be still be filled to capacity, despite a hometown team playing.

“We expect that if the Arizona Cardinals were lucky enough to make the game, we don’t think there is going to be any effect on the number of hotel rooms,” Stanton said. “There are some hotel rooms that are saved for visiting teams, but they are going to release those rooms and I’m pretty confident that those rooms will be snatched up in two seconds.”

But regardless of whether the hometown team makes it or not, Stanton is encouraging people to visit the giant football in downtown Phoenix to start their Super Bowl experience early. He also encouraged others to join him in taking a selfie with it, just like he did as it was being unveiled.

“So get a picture in front of that ball,” Stanton said. “Come with your family, go to the NFL experience, get a signature from some of the top NFL players from around the league, experience the great restaurants in downtown Phoenix and see some of the top entertainment.”