The folks who run the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl constantly are thinking about ways to make the game experience unique.
To that end, Tucson’s bowl game announced a date for 2019 that it hopes will become a new city tradition.
The fifth edition of the Arizona Bowl will kick off on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Officials also revealed plans Tuesday for a Downtown New Year’s Eve Bowl Bash in conjunction with the game at Arizona Stadium.
“We’ve never had a major ball-drop party downtown that I’m aware of,” said Ali Farhang, chairman of the Arizona Bowl’s executive board. “We think this is something that can really bring the community together. And a community that celebrates together, thrives together.”
Kym Adair, executive director of the Arizona Bowl, grew up in Scottsdale and fondly remembers attending the Fiesta Bowl block party on Mill Avenue in Tempe.
“It didn’t matter what the temperature was,” Adair said. “You had 300,000 of your closest friends downtown.”
She hopes to re-create something similar in Tucson. The post-Arizona Bowl party will have fireworks, live music, food vendors and a beer garden.
The kickoff time for this year’s game has not been set, but Adair said it likely wouldn’t be later than 2:30 p.m. She considers mid-afternoon the sweet spot, allowing enough time for a pregame tailgate and the aforementioned postgame party.
Last year’s Arizona Bowl began at 11 a.m. The organizers wanted to hold it on a Saturday to make it more family-friendly. But they couldn’t start it in the afternoon because the College Football Playoff semifinals were the same day.
“If we start the game a little bit later, we have a more robust pregame party,” Farhang said. “We can start the game at a time of day where we’re assured the weather’s going to be really beautiful. Knock on wood.”
The 2019 Arizona Bowl again will pit opponents from the Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences. That likely will be changing in the next bowl cycle.
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported last week that the Mountain West would be paired with the Mid-American Conference in the Arizona Bowl starting in 2020. Neither Farhang nor Adair could confirm that report, but they did shed some light on the current negotiations.
Farhang said the Arizona Bowl is “very close to finalizing” new conference contracts.
“We have a very clear picture of who those conferences will be,” Adair said. “We’re just not in a position to announce them yet.”
Adair said the affiliations could become official by mid-April. The Arizona Bowl also likely will announce its TV partner at that time. CBS Sports Network has televised the past two games and will broadcast the ’19 game as well.
Tuesday’s announcement came at a Club Congress news conference that almost was undermined by a 12-minute power outage that struck downtown about 1:45 p.m. Arizona Bowl PR staffers were scrambling to open windows and doors to light the stage before the power returned just before 2 o’clock.
Adair led the crowd in a 10-to-1 countdown before officially revealing the New Year’s Eve date. Attendees donned party hats and tiaras, and glasses of champagne were served as Mariah Carey’s version of “Auld Lang Syne” blared throughout the room.
Before the announcement, the Arizona Bowl presented checks totaling more than $100,000 to local charitable organizations. They included an $87,500 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson that was matched by UA donors Cole and Jeannie Davis.
The Arizona Bowl donates 100 percent of its net profits to charitable entities. Adair said the game has raised about $3.5 million over its first four years.