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Super Bowl party off and running in Phoenix

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Grade schooler Jake Stevens tested the obstacle at the NFL Experience over the weekend, eluding tackling dummies and veering around cones, among other challenges.

It was his favorite attraction, “Running through the course made me feel like a real football player,” Jake said.

That’s exactly what it’s designed to do.

The Super Bowl party has rolled into Phoenix with a majority of events surrounding the nation’s largest sporting event held downtown. The NFL Experience and Super Bowl Central highlight the week of festivities heading into the big game.

In 2008, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale hosted the NFL Experience. This week it’s at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“We’ve seen that having a hub or epicenter of Super Bowl is powerful and a place where people can feel like they are a part of it,” said NFL Vice President of Events Peter O’Reilly. “Having the NFL Experience, Verizon Super Bowl Central and Media Day downtown creates that hub where you can feel like you’re in the heart of the Super Bowl, while still having tons going on in Glendale and Scottsdale.”

Super Bowl Central covers 12 blocks and includes live performances, autograph stages, broadcast booths, team shops and a variety of vendors. The live performances are held daily on the Pepsi Hyped for Halftime Stage with local artists in the afternoon followed by nationally-recognized artists at night.

Unique to Arizona is The Grand Canyon Experience which features 20 different rock climbing spaces, an 18-foot waterfall and an 18-foot video screen at the top.

“There’s a lot of games and attractions for my son as well as events that appeal to the parents,” said Jake’s father Andrew. “The atmosphere downtown is great.”

Highlights of the previous NFL Experience included a Kid’s Zone, Quarterback Challenge and a Topps card show, which featured autograph sessions from former NFL stars, including Dan Marino and Kurt Warner.

This year’s NFL Experience is larger and caters to fans young and old with the NFL Play 60 Zone, which includes games and a field for NFL Play 60 clinics. The field goal and quarterback challenges return along with a 40-yard dash.

Implemented into the NFL Experience is the Fan Mobile Pass. The pass is a mobile sign up, which allows fans access to exclusive content including photo ops, special prizes and interactive games. Fans can sign up for the pass on the official Super Bowl website.

The NFL is expecting more than 1 million during the week, giving Arizona the opportunity to showcase itself to the rest of the country.

“Being able to show of the jewel of Arizona is exciting,” said Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain’s wife. “Everything that’s going on in this town is alive with things to do.”

The NFL Experience runs until Feb.1. Adult tickets cost $35 and children’s $20. The NFL Xtra tickets cost $60 for adults and $50 for kids. The Grand Canyon Experience is $5.