Downtown Phoenix to Look Like Times Square, Compliments of Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns (and Why That Sucks)

Coming soon to downtown Phoenix.
Driving through downtown Phoenix today, we thought to ourselves "hmmm, this city definitely needs a collection of giant, gaudy, lighted ads for things like Pepsi, and Doritos -- on par with places like Las Vegas and Times Square -- to line the sides of buildings near Chase Field." Actually we didn't -- because that would be an eyesore. But the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks think otherwise.

The D-Backs and the Suns unveiled today their plan to create the "Legends Entertainment District" in downtown Phoenix, right outside of the baseball and basketball stadiums.

Let's be clear: by "district," what the teams mean is they want a collection of giant, gaudy, lighted ads for things like Pepsi, and Doritos smack-dab in the middle of Phoenix in an attempt to replicate tourist destinations like Las Vegas and Times Square, with the hopes of cashing in on some ad revenue. City politicos, however, seem to think a bunch of lighted billboards will become "an attraction in itself."

"The new Legends Entertainment District, an attraction in itself, will help connect all the other downtown attractions, assuring visitors a more memorable and exciting downtown experience," Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says. "Instead of heading home after a sporting event, concert or meal, visitors will want to stick around and continue enjoying downtown, thus bringing revenue to our city. This creative partnership is a win-win for all."

Because after being barraged with corporate ads during the game, spending a few hours standing out in front of the stadium staring at a Kodak sign is gonna really add to the experience -- not quite, Gordo.

The District extends from 1st Avenue to 7th Street and Washington to Jackson Streets, and promises "nearly 55,000 square feet of unique marketing opportunities with a blend of digital signage and custom large format super graphic static billboards including the largest signage available anywhere in the Phoenix Metropolitan area."

According to Judd Norris, general manger of Legends Entertainment District, "the City of Phoenix has given us a blank canvas to work with."

Anyone who's been to New York City knows that similar attractions, like Times Square, can be somewhat impressive -- for about five minutes. Anyone who's lived in New York City knows places like that are annoying cluster-fucks you avoid at all costs.

If the District is successful, and becomes the downtown tourist destination the teams envision (which it won't), and you have someplace in that area that you need to be, good luck weaving through the bazillions of people staring at the (ahem) pretty lights while walking at a snail's pace.

And of course, no lighted-ad tourist destination is complete without 20 or 30 guys selling fake Rolexes...

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Having been to Phoenix... it doesn't even compare to NYC. At all.

Like many cities west of the Mississippi... Phoenix just has that plastic feeling to it. Granted it is a lot younger than many of the cities I've been to, but I don't see the point in trying to preserve the traditions of a city that hasn't even been around that long to begin with.

If this was to happen in Boston, Philly, Pitts, or DC? Yeh, I'd probably be extremely opposed to it, but only because those places have a much richer cultural and historical heritage at risk.

As for Phoenix, I see nothing bad coming out of this. Corporate investing and advertising is a GOOD thing to spur on the economy. Don't believe me? Go to Tokyo. Taiwan. Toronto. Hell, I even went to China a couple years back and was amazed to see the capitalist development in their cities, and not just Hong Kong and Shanghai. No wonder they're developing so much faster than us.

tl;dr- You should feel LUCKY Phoenix is getting a treatment like this. Nothing of the sort even happens in Tampa or Sarasota.


It has to do with generating money!


Ok, ok, I have to chime in here. As someone who's lived downtown (4th Ave and Roosevelt) since 1991, at first I thought, "ugh"... but in thinking about this a little longer, I like the idea. I can only hope that someone is listening here: please, please, please make this more of an artistic element with a small portion ads, not all ads. Think of Millenium Park in Chicago. I'd LOVE to see the buildings around the giant jellyfish sculpture covered in cool LED graphics... even if a portion is ads. I'd hang out there more. Everyone I drive past "her secret is patience", otherwise known as the jellyfish to many, really, really likes it. They just need to keep it lit all night long and we need to make a few of our buildings look cool at night. Not saying that this is going to change everything, but a sense of energy does attract people... humans are drawn to things that move, sparkle, etc... be it ocean waves or a waterfall or giant electronic art... let's see how it pans out...


The thought of the city trying to (once again) revitalize downtown via billboards really makes me want to steer clear of the place entirely, which is all together unavoidable considering my office is in that location. Then again, I'm not one for the corporate MEGA-plazas such as Westgate, or the failed Norterra, which is what I'm feeling this "Entertainment" district will become. I do however frequently visit downtown Glendale, as LOCALLY OWNED shops and eateries is all that one finds down there; Phoenix officials take notice: keep it local, and keep it pedestrian, who the fuck wants to sit in traffic just to see some international companies advertise on our buildings facades? Phoenix is a slut to corporations.

Anthony R
Anthony R

Phoenix should be so lucky to have a Times Square.


Morons... You don't need pretty lights and sports teams downtown to bring people, you need PEOPLE. In the late 90's, I lived and worked downtown, and our restaurant only did night time business if there was an event at America West Arena(Or whatever they've named it now), Diamondbacks brought us a little bump, but we were a whole(gasp!) mile away from the ballpark, and so we didn't get as big of a crowd as we did for Coyotes games, and as soon as the game started our place was a ghost town. Enough so, that employees who were scheduled to work the whole night could clock out and go to the game, as long as they left the arena when there were 2 minutes left, in case we got a post-game rush... The city was just as bad at figuring this out then, too...

It's not pretty lights, it's not sports teams, the streets are scary right now, because it's mostly just creepy street people downtown. Until more people are able to live there, meaning there is consistent foot traffic, meaning that there are more witnesses wandering around to help deter crime, meaning that more people are comfortable coming downtown, meaning that the businesses will do steady business, nobody is going to come downtown.

You need housing downtown(Not million dollar condos, but places NORMAL people can afford), you need shopping downtown, at least enough so people can run out and get a few ingredients they missed when they last drove to the big grocery store. You need a late night drugstore, etc... Until there is a real population living downtown, and until those people feel safe on the streets, downtown businesses will continue to flounder, no matter how many 5 story billboards you install.


Exactly. Went out with my girlfriend to Sens not long ago. Walking to the car after dinner we saw two groups of street people having a really ugly screaming match. We both live in the historic districts, not the suburbs, so we're used to urban grit. This was not gritty - it was nasty, enough to dispel any thoughts of going downtown again for a long time. We'll stick to Camelback, thank you. And huge billboards, a CVS pharmacy, and an ugly mall that's failing before the paint is dry will not be bringing us back any time soon. That's what you call a "lose-lose," Mr. Mayor. But as long as it makes the corporations happy, I imagine that's what you'll continue to keep foisting on us.

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