The Valley has a deep sports tradition that covers four major pro sports teams, two PAC-10 conference universities, and one of the most successful women’s pro basketball franchises in history.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury are the sole champions in the mix. The D-Backs shocked the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series on a chip-shot, walk-off base hit by local hero Luis Gonzalez. The Mercury, led by superstar Diana Taurasi, has won two titles. Both teams generate their share of excitement in downtown Phoenix at Chase Field and US Airways Arena, which is also home to the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Rattlers.
In 2006 the Arizona Cardinals moved to their new home, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, and went to their first Super Bowl 2 years later. The stadium has all the latest high-tech gear, from air-conditioning throughout the entire building to a retractable roof and field. Glendale and the Valley played host to the 2008 Super Bowl and will surely earn the right to host another.
Each March brings the four greatest words in the English language for any true baseball fan: “Pitchers and Catchers Report.” That means the Cactus League season is underway, as teams like the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs make their way to their spring training facilities to prepare for the season. See the Close-up on the Cactus League in this chapter for a glimpse at a few of the Cactus League’s newest stadiums. For baseball purists there’s nothing quite like it, except for the sister Grapefruit League in Florida. You’re able to watch games for $10, sitting on a beach towel on a sunny outfield lawn. The players are approachable, and the smaller stadiums allow you to reconnect with your team.
In addition to the professional sports, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have a heated rivalry that extends across every sport. The annual Territorial Cup football game is one of the best matchups of the PAC-10 season. The Valley is also home to such annual events as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the best-attended pro golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, and the Fiesta Bowl, which hosted the first unified national college championship game in 1999. The Fiesta Bowl is played in Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium. The Valley loves NASCAR, and the races at Phoenix International Raceway draw some of the largest crowds on the circuit.