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How Big Events In Scottsdale Are Changing This Season

Large events like the Phoenix Open and Barrett-Jackson Auctions are major economic drivers for Scottsdale. But as we enter the traditional events season, many annual gatherings will look much different.

Barrett-Jackson Auctions

In late October, Barrett -Jackson held its annual fall auction at Westworld in Scottsdale. CEO Craig Jackson said they sold every collector car listed: 442 for $23 million.

“We worked out a lot of issues and we proved that we could do it and that was our goal,” he said.

Jackson said people who worked in the auction block were tested for COVID-19 every day. They were assigned to pods so if someone became infected they wouldn’t lose the whole team. Social distancing and masks were mandatory for everyone. But not everyone went for it.

“We had one consigner who refused to wear it. We asked him to leave. They blasted us on social media saying we were discriminating,” he said.

The would-be seller reportedly posted photos of people not wearing masks. Jackson said those people were drinking and following the rules.

“You can’t get a drink and go walk around,” he said. “If you get a drink, you gotta go sit somewhere where you’re six feet away from someone else, you consume it, you put your mask back on.”

Jackson said Scottsdale approved up to 6,000 guests per day and they peaked at about 5,000. They’re now working on ways to safely boost attendance for a nine-day auction in mid-January.

Phoenix Open

Crowds will be much smaller at the TPC in Scottsdale when the Waste Management Phoenix Open takes place the first week of February. Often called "The People’s Open," the golf tournament typically attracts hundreds of thousands of fans. The 16 th Hole has earned the nickname, "The loudest hole in golf."

“It’s entirely possible that our event will be the first tournament on the PGA tour with a meaningful amount of fans,” said Scott Jenkins, Phoenix Open chairman.

Although they canceled all 585 suites and hospitality venues, Jenkins said the tournament plans to offer something special for fans.

“We are committed to figure out a way to build at least a one structure building on the 16 th hole,” he said. “We hope to have approval in the next couple weeks, at least initial approval from the tour, to start putting together some ticket packages that we can sell.”

"It’s entirely possible that our event will be the first tournament on the PGA tour with a meaningful amount of fans." —Scott Jenkins, Phoenix Open chairman

Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl is bracing to potentially lose money hosting the Jan. 2 college football game. During a conference call organized by Experience Scottsdale, Executive Director Mike Nealy said the Fiesta Bowl still hasn’t decided whether fans will be allowed inside State Farm Stadium, but the group is currently targeting 25% capacity. 

“Teams will be coming, they’re staying,” he said. “Unfortunately, they’re probably going to stay a couple shorter days than they normally do, that’s from a safety protocol. They are going to be in a safety bubble, as they like to say, so they probably won’t be out and about in the community themselves.”

Arabian Horse Show

Taryl O’Shea will be closely watching the Fiesta Bowl and Phoenix Open. She’s executive director of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona and oversees the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show at Westworld.

“Our event typically has 2,200 horse and over 300,000 people that attend, that are in Scottsdale for over 17 days,” she said.

The event is still scheduled for mid-February, but O’Shea said the United States Equestrian Federation has limited all competitions to essential personnel. That means no spectators.

“We are in talks with them right now and we’re hopeful that that will change for February,” she said.

Canal Convergence

Significant changes are underway for Scottsdale’s annual public arts festival that runs Nov. 6 – 15. In years past, Canal Convergence attracted tens of thousands of people to the waterfront to watch choreographed fire shows and dance performances and enjoy live music from the beer and wine garden. This year, there’s none of that.

“You’ll get to see public art that will be a couple of pieces at the waterfront and then throughout the downtown area,” said Kim Boganey, public art director.

She said about a dozen works of art will be displayed across a three-mile radius for people to view from their cars or self-guided tours.  

An online videothat explains how people can safely enjoy public art also highlights a new feature. Using a smartphone app, people can listen to the artists talk about their work, virtually explore an artist’s studio or take a historic tour of the canal.

Also new this year is language. Rather than call Canal Convergence an event, organizers are using the word "experience". They want people to think small groups and individuals, not crowds. 

San Francisco Giants

The pandemic shortened the 2020 season for Cactus League spring training, and Sara Grauf, senior vice president for the San Francisco Giants said the 2021 season will look different.

“I can’t provide details yet because I think we have to wait to see where we are after the holiday season, but we’re certainly looking at things like scattered arrival and departure times, contactless system for concessions, possibly decreased capacity, I think that’s a very real possibility, certainly increased cleaning at the facilities,” she said.

Grauf said the Giants, who play at Scottsdale Stadium, are in the process of reaching out to season ticket holders to gauge their interest and plans for 2021.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.