By Elena Shklyar
PHOENIX — Alongside the blocked-off street stood a lengthy line of fans wearing an abundance of NFL jerseys representing almost all 32 teams awaiting to be let inside the Phoenix Convention Center doors for Day 5 of the Super Bowl Experience.
It was 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, just a mere 32 hours before kickoff of Super Bowl LVII.
The Super Bowl Experience presented by Lowes was about to open for its last day of 12-hours straight football theme park action such as the 40-yard dash, player autographs and photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Inside the convention center, 15 minutes before the doors opened for fans, Super Bowl Experience employee Lawrence Kitt turned to his coworker Cate Moffett in complete seriousness and asked, “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” Moffet responded. ”The game is tomorrow.”
Kitt nodded slowly and muttered under his breath before taking a long swig of his venti Starbucks black coffee.
“Working in Phoenix during Super Bowl week has been the craziest week of my life, probably the craziest week in this city,” Kitt said. “I work eight-hour days, commute almost an hour to and from work, despite only living 30 (minutes) away.”
Kitt is not new to the industry of working in sporting events. He has been working events for professional sports in Phoenix for more than 15 years and has worked Suns, Cardinals and Diamondbacks games as well as the 2015 Super Bowl hosted in Arizona.
“I’m not new to this,” Kitt said. “I’ve been around a lot, but the Super Bowl is just different. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. The diversity of people that hosting the Super Bowl brings into this city is legit.”
Despite the long, draining hours for Kitt and Moffett, the fan interaction and diversity makes the job well worth it.
“You meet so many people here, from all over the country, all over the world,” Moffett said. “It has been eye-opening seeing where everyone has come from and why they came, especially when they don’t have a dog in the fight tomorrow.”
For Phoenix residents Laura and John Rich, the excitement of the event and the economic impact outweigh the traffic, vast crowds and drunk fans taking over their beloved city.
“It’s great living here and getting to experience the excitement that comes with hosting such a massive world event,” John Rich said. “It gets a bit crowded, but it’s fun to meet people, and it is so good for the economy in this city so I would love to see that continue.”
The Super Bowl this Sunday is the fourth one Arizona has hosted. The last time Arizona hosted in 2015, the state gained $720 million in total economic impact, according to a study published by SportsPro.
Local fans Justin and Lauren Perry hope this Super Bowl brings a bigger sports atmosphere to the city of Phoenix since they have been “struggling in their local professional male sports lately.”
“We aren’t even going to the actual football game, but this entire experience is what this city needs,” Lauren Perry said. “It’s been crazy, but it is so good for the area, and I really hope it helps bring in a passionate sports vibe to Phoenix.”
Eagles fan and Phoenix resident Ryan Bleam fell in love with the Super Bowl being hosted in his city back in 2015.
“2015 was incredible to just be around the experience of it all,” Bleam said. “When the Eagles were doing well in October, I bought my parents tickets to fly out here for the experience, and the Eagles ended up making it, so obviously it worked out very well. I’m just really soaking it all in, just having it in this city.”
How does a non-Phoenix resident and fiery Chiefs fan feel about Phoenix hosting the Super Bowl?
“It’s amazing,” Brian Switzer said. “Everyone has been beyond nice so far. This is my fourth total Super Bowl I’ve been to, so it’s definitely been my best experience yet.”
Elena Shklyar is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect her on Twitter and LinkedIn.