10 years after World Series win, Diamondbacks still impact downtown businesses

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For many businesses around downtown Phoenix, Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games continue to be opportunities to bring in revenue. (Cydney McFarland/DD)

A lot can happen to a city in ten years.

Shopping centers pop up, roads are re-routed, public transit appears. And sports franchises certainly see their ups and downs.

Ten years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks won their first and only World Series title against the New York Yankees. This year, though back in the playoffs, the feel-good team fell short, losing in five games to the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series.

Since 2001, the Diamondbacks have changed personnel, ownership, even their logo. Bank One Ballpark is now Chase Field. Purple and teal fades into Sedona red and black, and managers have swapped from Bob Brenly to Kirk Gibson. The third baseman Matt Williams has moved a couple feet over the foul line to become the third base coach.

Two members of the World Series team, Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace, don’t grace the field anymore. They inhabit the press box.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the Diamondbacks’ impact on nearby businesses and downtown development.

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of Gonzalez muscling a bloop single over Derek Jeter to win Game 7 of the World Series. What’s left from that championship run is scarce around the stadium, with the exception of a banner in the rafters and a display in the main concourse. Outside the stadium walls, however, the impact of the 2001 season is still felt.

The 2001 baseball season and playoffs brought droves of people to downtown Phoenix, said David Roderique, president of Downtown Phoenix Partnership. Not only in attendance at the games but to the restaurants, hotels, and shops as well. The World Series victory had immediate benefits for the Downtown Phoenix community, he said.

“I think that was one of the real turning points, especially winning the series, because we just had tons of people in downtown,” Roderique said. “People weren’t just going downtown for the games, they were coming out (into the city), they were camping out in the plaza, they were going to the sports bars. People just wanted to be down here and be part of the excitement.”

For businesses around the stadium, the increase in attendance meant an increase in business, especially as the Diamondbacks went deeper and deeper into the playoffs.

Nearby Alice Cooperstown Restaurant on First and Jackson streets was one of the surrounding businesses that saw an increase in business around the playoffs in 2001. General Manager Jeff Myers said the restaurant experienced a 22 percent increase in average revenue per night during the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, and a 41 percent increase during the seven-game World Series against the New York Yankees.

“There was a real buzz,” Myers said. “The last two or three weeks of the season it was starting to feel like playoffs. Those last couple weeks really raised the per-game average.”

The World Series win gave Phoenix a chance to be in the national spotlight and on television in front of more than 24.5 million viewers.

“It put a lot of focus on downtown, not only by Phoenicians and the state of Arizona, but nationally,” he said. “It’s hard unless you get an NBA All Star Game or baseball all star game like we have been fortunate to have. It’s hard to get your city on a national stage.”

Downtown Phoenix has diversified its economy and offerings since 2001, but the area still relies heavily on the professional sports franchises to draw in crowds from the rest of the Valley, Roderique said. Before the Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns, however, downtown business activity was virtually nonexistent.

“In the eighties, if you said you were going downtown people thought you were out of your mind,” Roderique said. “Now, it’s a common occurrence.”

The following years of high attendance at the ballpark — the Diamondbacks ranked second in the National League in attendance in 2002 — resulted in more businesses having the faith to invest downtown. Jawhar Karim, manager at Karim’s Cobbler Shop & Deli on Third and Jefferson streets, said he saw more businesses sprout up after the World Series victory.

“It did a lot for a lot of people and a lot of businesses were birthed because of that World Series,” Karim said. “We lived pretty good in 2001 and the next following two or three years was good business.”

Fast forward a decade, and downtown Phoenix now has the light rail, CityScape, an ASU campus and a growing community. The 2001 championship was a catalyst for increased business that helped make these development projects a reality, Roderique said.

“It helped to create a lot of momentum,” Roderique said.

Today, for many businesses around Downtown Phoenix, sporting events from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns continue to be opportunities to bring in revenue. According to Myers, a third of all of Cooperstown’s business runs through sporting and concert events. For Karim’s Cobbler Shop, Karim said the time when the Diamondbacks are in-season and people are going to games is when the shop sees the most customers.

“We thrive off that at least six months out of the year, the other six we need to get creative,” Karim said. “Baseball pays the bills around here.”

Contact the reporter at jordan.hamm@asu.edu

Read about Diamondbacks CEO and President Derrick Hall’s fight with prostate cancer here.