By Liz Massey, Jan. 29, 2015.

As the country focuses its attention on the Valley of the Sun in preparation for the Feb. 1 Super Bowl XLIX, local LGBT and allied organizations are celebrating the fact that fairness and inclusion of our community played a significant role in retaining the Super Bowl host city designation.

LGBT organizations will be among those benefiting from the $500 million-dollar windfall the event is expected to bring to the Phoenix metro area.

If the most recent previous Super Bowl appearance in town – Super Bowl XLII in 2008 – is an accurate guideline, the Valley can expect to reap a rich reward for the short-term influx of nearly 100,000 visitors for the event.

According to Douglas MacKenzie, director of media relations for VisitPhoenix.com, an economic impact study performed by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business reported that the 2008 event generated an economic impact of $500.6 million for Arizona. It drew more than 91,000 out-of-state visitors, who spent $218 million during their stays. The visitors spent an average of $617 per day on hotels, food, transportation, recreation, shopping and other activities.

However, the upcoming Super Bowl – as well as the NFL Pro Bowl, which was staged at University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 25 – might not have happened in Arizona this year, if not for the veto of former Gov. Jan Brewer of S.B. 1062 last February. The bill, which would have allowed discrimination against LGBT persons on “religious freedom” grounds, was opposed by much of the business community in Phoenix and throughout the state.

Angela Hughey, co-founder and president of ONE Community, an interactive web and events community for LGBT and allied individuals and businesses, said that the business community in Phoenix had really “come out of the closet” to support a veto of S.B. 1062, and anti-discrimination policies more generally.

With the help of FAST SIGNS on Central, ONE Community spearheaded an “Open For Business” poster campaign while the bill was being considered, and distributed more than 3,500 signs in 72 hours in support of a fair and inclusive business environment in the state.

“There was such an outpouring of support to do what was right,” Hughey recalled, noting that the NFL had been involved in private conversations related to the bill and its eventual veto.

MacKenzie underscored the importance of business leaders rejecting the bill by saying, “The bill was promoted by a few with extremist views and was simply not a proposal the citizens of Arizona wanted or wished for. More than 60 CEOs from Arizona firms signed a letter urging the veto.” He also pointed to Phoenix’s perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipality Equality Index provided evidence to outsiders that the area is welcoming and inclusive.

Rejecting discrimination helped ensure that Phoenix retained host-city designation for the Super Bowl, and the local LGBT community, as part of the general Valley community, stands to benefit from the whirlwind of events in the week leading up to Feb. 1.

MacKenzie reported that VisitPhoenix.com recently hosted a travel writer from the Seattle Gay Times who was doing a Super Bowl preview, and that his organization has been directing gay Super Bowl travelers to the LGBT tab on its website, which lists queer-friendly places to stay, things to do and friendly stops on the Valley’s nightlife scene.

Hughey said ONE Community business members from companies in the hospitality, party equipment rental and events management industries had told her they were booked solid recently due to Super Bowl-related business.

The ONE Community Foundation, which was founded in October 2014 to provide mentorship and leadership training programs for LGBT and allied young adults, will itself be the beneficiary of events hosted by the Hall of Fame Players Association in the days leading up to the big game. (See sidebar for details.)

Both MacKenzie and Hughey expected the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl to rehabilitate Arizona’s image as an event destination, which had been tarnished by the S.B. 1062 struggle, as well as the fracas over the anti-immigration law S.B. 1070. Hughey said that Arizona lost approximately $120 million worth of booked event-related business after S.B. 1070 passed, and asserted that the state needed to make strides toward full inclusion of LGBT residents if it hopes to prosper.

“Arizona has not rebounded [from the recession] as much as other states,” she said. “Our economic sustainability is very tied to growth. It’s imperative that [we demonstrate] we’re truly open for business to everyone if we want to grow.”

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