PHOENIX — The Super Bowl is now just 40 days away, and the festivities will be in Glendale, downtown Phoenix, and all across the Valley.
It's expected to boost tourism and local businesses after tumultuous years for the industry, where restaurants and small businesses struggled through a pandemic, essentially non-existent tourism and inflation.
The Super Bowl: The 'light at the end of the tunnel'
2020 was what you might call a tunnel for Ricardo Aguirre.
Aguirre's long-time catering business, Tamales y Tacos Puebla closed for 10 months.
"It was definitely a challenge in regards to the many contracts that we lost," Aguirre said.
Not only was his business closed, but he also lost several family members to COVID-19.
"We were very grateful, you know, to have people on our side that rooted for us," Aguirre said. "And because of them, we were able to bounce back."
Standing at the spot his food truck sits every First Friday in Phoenix near Garfield and 2nd streets, Aguirre said his business is bouncing back and getting ready to be in the light.
"I always say there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Aguirre said. "And the Super Bowl, that's what this is to us."
Aguirre's business landed a contract with the Super Bowl, feeding 2,000 stadium staff over 11 days.
His normal crew of eight will more than double for the spotlight on Arizona.
"We're going to be a full staff of 20, so we're going to be prepping, we're going to be cooking, we're gonna be selling, we're gonna be going here, going there," Aguirre said. "It's gonna be a lot of work, but it's definitely going to be worth it."
Pandemic affects on Arizona businesses
The tunnel of the pandemic affected Arizona businesses.
"We lost 1,200 businesses in the food service industry, just in the COVID pandemic," Tim Castro, Director of Business Development for Local First Arizona.
The pandemic brought a two-fold loss, Castro says, businesses not only lost their local traffic but tourist traffic too.
Local First Arizona helped businesses during the height of the pandemic by helping distribute federal and local aid dollars to restaurants and small businesses. In addition, Local First Arizona started a program, called Feed Phoenix, which hired local farmers and businesses to deliver food to needy families.
Anticipated Super Bowl boost
Despite the businesses that didn't make it, Castro says COVID-19 funding and Feed Phoenix did help keep many businesses going.
"We're looking at another adrenaline shot, the Super Bowl is expected to bring $600 million into the environment into our local business ecosystem," Castro said. "And credit to the Super Bowl committee, credit to all those individuals that have been focused on bringing in local business vendors to give them an opportunity."
Local First Arizona has been helping in the endeavor to get Super Bowl contracts awarded to local business vendors.
Castro said now, business owners are having good problems, like figuring out the logistics of feeding thousands.
"If the Super Bowl were not here. And they're able to take advantage of it and get that extra shot in the arm," Castro said.
Even after the Super Bowl is done and all festivities wrapped, Castro expects the benefits will last longer, as restaurants see success with Super Bowl contracts, other large-scale events will feel more within their reach too.
"These businesses are going to say, 'You know what? I did well in the Super Bowl. Let me see if I can help you do some other events. I think that'll be the win-win to see local small businesses go toe to toe with the established maybe multi-state presence that they're used to," Castro said.
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