A downtown power outage couldn’t suck the energy from the confines of the Hotel Congress Tuesday afternoon.
Football fans flocked to the hotel in anticipation to hear from organizers of the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Executive director Kim Adair delivered the big news of the day: the bowl will be held on New Year’s Eve for the first time.
The exhibition, which first kicked off inside Arizona Stadium in 2015, will still pit teams from the Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences this season, according to board member Ali Farhang.
Farhang, who preceded Adair as the game’s executive director, said moving the game to Dec. 31 was a no-brainer. Farhang said the game, which will kick off at an undisclosed time during that afternoon, will be followed by a downtown party to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
The Tucson-based attorney believes such a celebration would be a first for the community, further cementing the game’s importance to Southern Arizonans.
“we’ve never had a major ball-drop party in downtown that I’m aware of,” Farhang said. “So, we think this is something that can really bring the community together. And a community that celebrates together, thrives together.”
Farhang and Adair also handed out checks to several local nonprofits during the ceremony, hoping to demonstrate the game’s altruistic goals. The pair delivered checks for $5,000 to the Centurions, the Tucson Conquistadores, the Tucson Indian Center and the Tucson Pet Sanctuary.
The biggest check went to members of the Tucson Boys and Girls Club, which received a donation of $87,150 from the bowl, a donation matched by a private donor.
Adair covered the importance of the bowl’s mission of giving 100 percent of the proceeds to charity in her comments during the ceremony.
Like Farhang, Adair is confident the committee’s vision and effort over the past five years have cemented the game’s importance within the community.
“Every decision we make is focused on how we generate more money for these charities, how we generate meaningful economic impact for southern Arizona, and how we provide a first-class experience to our student athletes,” Adair said. “We're working to build a Tucson tradition that is attractive not just to football fans, but to the entire community, a tradition that the community continues to embrace.”
Farhang said the 2019 game will be broadcast nationwide on CBS Sports Network, which also aired last year’s game. That partnership between the network and Tucson’s only bowl game has been mutually beneficial, Farhang said, delivering the game to a wider audience.
“They've been really good partners,” he said. “They do a really good job promoting our game nationally, promoting our community nationally. We've been very happy with our relationship with CBS Sports.”
Discussions are underway regarding the conference alignments for the bowl, during the 2020-25 media rights cycle.
Farhang said the bowl is in active discussions with upwards of seven or eight of the 10 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences for the next cycle. He believes an announcement on the future of the bowl will be made in the coming months, with Tuesday’s proclamation serving as the start of a new era for the sport in the community.
“We're going to know who the conferences are, what teams we're going to be getting from those conferences,” Farhang said. “And right around that time we should have an idea about the TV network, as well.”
Adair believes the game can become a holiday tradition, similar to the Sun Bowl in El Paso and others around the country.
“The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl will become Tucson's biggest and best New Year's Eve tradition,” she said. “It's something that can't be missed.”