14 reasons to be excited to be in Tucson in 2014

2014-01-02T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T10:23:34Z 14 reasons to be excited to be in Tucson in 2014Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 02, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Before 2014 whizzes past in a blur,

take a deep breath and consider what really cool stuff awaits in the new year.

Check out our list of 14 reasons to look

forward to being in Tucson in 2014.

Modern streetcar

The trip from the University of Arizona to the downtown entertainment district is going to get a lot easier when the streetcar gets up and running by the end of July or early August. Michael Graham, a city transportation spokesman, said six cars will run on a regular basis — with two backups in the garage. Fares will match Sun Tran charges, which is currently $1.50. The streetcar’s route extends from the University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Center down University Boulevard through North Fourth Avenue and along Congress Street to the Mercado San Agustin just west of Interstate 10.

Cyclovia Tucson grows

Tucson’s exuberant celebration of pedal-power gains a new partner this spring — Tucson Hullabaloo. It’s being organized by the same folks behind the Flagstaff Hullabaloo, a summer festival that Arizona Daily Sun readers have voted “Best Annual Event or Festival” for the last four years. The music, art and entertainment festival will take place April 5-6, at Armory Park in conjunction with Cyclovia, which is expected to draw more than 10,000 riders on a 5-mile loop from downtown to South Tucson April 6. Now in its fifth year in Tucson, Cyclovia closes city streets to encourage people to get out and exercise, whether it’s on foot, bike or skates. “Cyclovia Tucson ... really embodies the spirit and the sense of community of Tucson, and its mission and its authenticity are attracting the attention of the entire state,” said Kylie Walzak, Cyclovia Tucson’s coordinator. Go online to cycloviatucson.org for details, and also to sign up to volunteer or donate.

Tucson Festival

of Books

The fourth largest book festival in the country starts its sixth chapter this spring. Hundreds of authors — from Tucson and around the country— will visit the University of Arizona mall March 15-16. New authors mingle with Newbery Medal winners at panels and booths, and bookworms meet ring-tailed cats at Science City presentations. Some notable visitors to look for include: former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Anne Hillerman continuing father Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series; James Swanson with his book on the assassination of JFK; and Cornelia Funke, author of youth adult series “MirrorWorld” and “Inkheart.” For more information visit tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

Opera blockbusters

Arizona Opera is mounting two of the most popular operas ever written — Puccini’s “La Bohème” (Feb. 1-2) and Verdi’s “La Traviata” (March 8-9) — at Tucson Music Hall. Both are tragic stories of star-crossed lovers with heroines felled by tuberculosis and dramatic death-scene endings. And they have wide appeal across generations thanks to Hollywood and Broadway. The Broadway musical “Rent” is inspired by “La Bohème”; “La Traviata” makes an appearance in a number of movies, including in “Pretty Woman.” Details and tickets: azopera.org 

BICAS turns 25

And to celebrate, the nonprofit community cooperative — formally known as Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage — is hosting a year of commemorative events. On Feb. 1, BICAS, 44 W. Sixth St., hosts an opening reception for the Fifth Annual Tucson Sculpture Festival. The capstone event will be the BICAS Art Auction, in its 19th year, held the first weekend in December. The biggest fundraising event of the year, the auction gets bigger every year, with lines of patrons stretching out the doors. “People are so proud that BICAS is so recognized across the country,” said Kylie Walzak, the group’s administrative coordinator. “There is also a real connection between recycled bicycle art and Tucson.”

Pizzeria Bianco

Ten months after he announced plans to come to Tucson, James Beard-winning pizza chef Chris Bianco is expected to open Pizzeria Bianco in February on East Congress Street . “We’ve taken our time on the project for a lot of reasons. One, we want to do something special, and two, we’re in it for the long haul,” Bianco said. “We’re really excited to be part of (Tucson).” Also opening soon: The Coronet brasserie-style restaurant, 402 E. Ninth St., set to open in February. And coming later: Construction should begin early in the year on Hudson, 201 N. Fourth Ave., Jason Anderson’s new venture. Anderson also owns the Asian-fusion restaurant Umi Star.

Denim & Diamonds

Tucson will get its third country music nightclub when Denim & Diamonds opens sometime in February at 5470 E. Broadway, said Roger Gearhart, spokesman for the Texas-based Graham Brothers Entertainment. The 12,000-square-foot club and restaurant replaces the old Cactus Moon country nightclub, which closed in July 2012 after 23 years in Tucson. The city’s other country music nightclubs are the 50-year-old Maverick Live Country Club on East Tanque Verde Road and the year-old Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in the Tucson Mall.

country thunder

Two of country music’s biggest names — multiplatinum-selling rebel Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, the four-time reigning Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year — headline this year’s festival April 10-13 in Florence, about 70 minutes from Tucson. The supporting cast is equally impressive: The Band Perry, Thompson Square, Cassadee Pope, Tyler Farr, Easton Corbin, Craig Morgan, Colt Ford, Joe Diffie, Will Hoge, Mark Chesnutt, Charlie Worsham, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sawyer Brown and LoCash Cowboys. Tickets and details: arizona.countrythunder.com

University of Arizona basketball

The Wildcats (13-0) start Pac-12 conference play tonight against the Washington State Cougars (6-5) at home. We at home and college hoops fans around the country will be anxiously watching to see how long the Cats can hold on to No. 1.

Whiskey town

Whiskey production will continue to grow in Tucson in 2014, as the city’s first craft distillery, Hamilton Distillers moves into a much larger facility armed with bigger, better equipment. Owner Stephen Paul hasn’t found a space just yet, but he has raised the $900,000 he estimates it will take for the upgrade and is actively looking at industrial spaces around town, including near the Dragoon Brewing Company on West Grant Road. “Being near Dragoon would be a plus,” he said. “It would be a big draw for that area.” Until then, Paul will continue to produce whiskey in a small space behind his now-closed Arroyo Design furniture company on North Fourth Avenue. Paul said sales for the three types of whiskey Hamilton produces have been over the top. “Our distributor told us we had enough product to last 10 to 12 months, and we sold out in two,” he said. ‘We were thinking about taking out an ad out that said, ‘Thank you, Tucson. You shocked us.’”

More beer

Tucson’s microbrewery boom continues in 2014, kicking off with the long-awaited opening of Sentinel Peak Brewing Company. If all goes according to plan, the nanobrewery will open the doors to its physical location at 4746 E. Grant Road on Jan. 11, said co-owner Jeremy Hilderbrand. “It has been daunting,” he added. “We have total respect for anyone who has tried something like this.” Following in its footsteps will be Iron John’s Brewing Company, 245 S. Plumer Ave., which has pushed back its tentative opening date to late February.

wine scene builds in Tucson

Flying Leap Vineyards will open its first Tucson tasting room at St. Philip’s Plaza in February. ”If I were a betting man, I would say we are going to have that place open by the last Saturday of the month of February,” said Flying Leap President Mark W. Beres, who owns the Willcox vineyard with partners Marc Moeller and Tom Kitchens. Flying Leap, which also has vineyards in Elgin, has three other tasting rooms in Willcox, Bisbee and Elgin and plans to open a fifth, also in Tucson, in October.

the loft cinema breaks ground

The nonprofit at 3233 E. Speedway hopes to break ground on a long-awaited project to expand the lobby, connect the two theater buildings and rehab the existing theaters, among other improvements. The group is still working toward its $2.5 million Building for the Future capital campaign goal, and as of last week had raised a total of $1,434,757 (this number includes the theater’s successful challenge in 2013 to raise $250,000 to receive matching funds from the Margaret E. Mooney Foundation). Now the Loft needs to raise the remaining $1 million or so to finish the campaign and start construction, said an optimistic Jeff Yanc, the theater’s program director.

More lives saved

This promises to be a pivotal year at Pima Animal Care Center, which added an outdoor tent to ease overcrowding late last year, and is hiring a new veterinarian and additional staffers. The county shelter has also contracted with a new nonprofit group, Pima Paws for Life, to take dogs with minor illnesses — such as kennel cough — and nurse them back to health at an off-site facility. The group hopes to take about 70 or more dogs a month from PACC, and then ideally find them homes so they don’t have to return to the shelter. Organizers hope to eventually be able to help animals with more serious injuries or medical problems. From the group’s website, pimapawsforlife.org : “By partnering with the citizens of our community and other local shelters and rescues, Pima Paws For Life is dedicated to helping build a No Kill Pima County — a community where pets are no longer destroyed just because they are homeless.”

Whole Foods in Casas Adobes

We’ve been watching for more than a year as crews tore down the old market on the corner of Oracle and Ina roads and began construction of a beautiful two-story store in its place. And we’ll be watching a while longer — from eight to 10 months — as construction continues on the Whole Foods, 7133 N. Oracle Road. It’s not expected to open until late summer or early fall. 

Things we hope to see in 2014

  • Maintaining the public art the city of Tucson and county spent millions creating. The county has said the lack of funds will not stand in the way of maintaining the roughly 80 pieces of art it has, said
  • Roberto Bedoya
  • , head of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. TPAC is doing an inventory of all county pieces, which will be completed in late January. The county will get a priority list and get to work on fixing what needs to be fixed, said Bedoya. On the city side, an inability to identify resources has stalled any move toward maintaining the nearly 150 pieces within city limits.
  • More big fashion names. Last year, national fashion designers Betsey Johnson and Bert Keeter mingled with local designers at Tucson Fashion Week. This year, organizers want to see even more of the industry’s big names in Tucson, said advisory committee member
  • Camerone Parker
  • .
  • More, bigger name country artists headlining Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill.

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