Chase Field – Cheez-It Bowl
Cheez-It Bowl Celebrates 30 years
The Cheez-it Bowl is celebrating their 30th year of providing post-season college football to the state of Arizona – the bowl originally started back in 1989, about 100 miles south on Interstate 10, in Tucson. Over its three decades of existence, the bowl game has had many names, including the Copper Bowl, the Insight.com Bowl, the Insight Bowl, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and most recently, the Cactus Bowl. Besides the name change, the game has also been played in three different cities: Tucson, Tempe, and Phoenix. The game is currently hosted by the Fiesta Bowl organization, which partners with the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences.
The Cheez-It Bowl game is currently being played at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, which opened in 1998, as the home of the MLB expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. Chase Field is the first stadium built in the US with a retractable roof over a natural grass playing surface. However, the Diamondbacks will change the ballpark’s grass to artificial turf in 2019. This will not affect future bowl games, as the current football grass is brought in, and laid on top of the baseball field. Chase Field is one of two MLB stadiums that currently sponsor bowl games, the other being Yankee Stadium for the Pinstripe Bowl.
Food & Beverage 4
Levy Restaurants is the food provider for Chase Field year-round. The concessions are one of the best in MLB during the Diamondbacks season, however, the options are downsized for the Cheez-it Bowl.
Chase Field’s concessions have many outside restaurant vendors such as America’s Taco Shop, Streets of New York Pizza, Dutch Bros, Paradise Valley Burger Company, and Chicago’s famous Portillo’s. The most noticeable and popular vendor is Friday’s Sports Grill restaurant located in left field, a place where fans can reserve a table while watching the action.
A couple of specialty items at Chase Field are the Chicken Enchilada Dog, an 18-inch chicken enchilada sausage topped with queso blanco, enchilada sauce, Pico de Gallo, black olives, sour cream, and tortilla chips served on a telera roll, or the Bacon Wrapped Pretzel Baguette stuffed with ham and swiss cheese and served with honey mustard and roasted jalapeno ranch on the side. These two specialty items cost $16 and $25 dollars respectively, so they aren’t exactly for everyone’s wallet. However, the ballpark’s food menu serves every person’s diet, even vegan, at Taste of Chase. Here, vegan fans have a choice of two items, the Vega Burger ($10) or the Sonoran Vegan Burger ($11) – the Sonoran Vegan Burger is topped with vegan pepper jack cheese, soy chorizo, chipotle vegan mayonnaise, cowboy caviar, and guacamole served on a wheat bun.
During the Cheez-It Bowl, the alcohol selection at Chase Field is cut back from a large selection of beers to just a few brands. However, frozen drinks and wine are still offered – the margarita ($12) made with Roger Cline’s Moonshine Tequila is a great choice. Prices for alcoholic beverages range between $10 and $15, while the Pepsi soft drink choices are listed at $6 for the regular and $7.50 for the Cheez-It Bowl souvenir cup.
There are plenty of sweets throughout the concourses, with Sweet Treats serving frozen yogurt in a helmet, cup, or cone. But the best item is the Churro Dog, a split white iced doughnut topped with a churro in the middle, then topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. The Churro Dog 2.0 is available as well; this delicacy is rolled with Oreo crumbs, strawberry topping, frozen yogurt, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and then topped with even more Oreo crumbles.
The Cheez-It Bowl doesn’t allow tailgating around Chase Field. However, the bowl does provide free pre-game entertainment just outside the facility – the Oasis is a pre-game party set up at The Plaza and 4th Street on the west side of Chase Field. The Oasis features food, drinks, live music, performances by the teams’ bands and pep squads, a big-screen TV to watch other bowl action, and even bouncy houses and a play area for the kids. This can be a great place to go before the game and meet up with other fans.
The atmosphere at the Cheez-It Bowl is not as vivid as its counterpart in Glendale, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. But while the Cheez-It Bowl is played in a ballpark built for baseball, the Fiesta Bowl Committee does a great job setting up the field to optimize sight lines for the fans. The configuration of the field during the Cheez-It Bowl has temporary bleachers set up from the first base line to center field, bringing the fans much closer to the action. This is a better setup than in New York at the Pinstripe Bowl, for example, where the football field is laid out diagonally across the infield and outfield, leaving the fans a good distance away from the game action.
Chase Field also doesn’t provide the atmosphere that the past games brought, when the bowl was played at Arizona State University in Sun Devil Stadium. But the one advantage that Chase Field provides is a closed roof, providing fans with more comfort during the cold December night. The Cheez-It Bowl also sells programs for just $10, and there are plenty of souvenir stands around the ballpark. There is also the pre-game pageantry like at other bowl games, in the form of paratroopers landing on the field before the game.
Chase Field opens the roof for these paratroopers to land on the field a few minutes before kickoff, with the paratroopers trailing smoke or a flag. There are also the traditional fireworks from the scoreboard during the singing of the National Anthem, performances by both bands, and colorful displays as the teams come onto the field. The atmosphere really depends on the fan base during the game, and the 30K fans can be easily overlooked due to the size of Chase Field. The bands, spirit squads, and mascots try to get the fans involved, but there just isn’t the college football atmosphere here that makes this game different from the NFL.
Chase Field is in downtown Phoenix nestled between N. 7th Street and S. 4th Street, near the Phoenix Convention Center and Talking Stick Resort Arena. One advantage of a downtown ballpark is that there is plenty of lodging in the area – Westin Phoenix Downtown, Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix, Hotel Palomar, and Sheraton-Phoenix are all a short walk from Chase Field. These hotels can be expensive, however, depending on the time of year, as Phoenix is very popular for business conferences. The Sky-Harbor Airport hotels are close enough, though, if you like to stay away from downtown, and the Valley Metro connects nearby cities such as Tempe, Mesa, and Glendale, so those areas are options as well when deciding on lodging.
Just as the lodging around Chase Field is abundant, so are the restaurants – just outside the entrance to APS Pavilion is the Game Seven Grill, and across the street are Coach’s Corner Grill and Sliders. In addition, if you walk a block west on Jefferson, near Talking Stick Resort Arena you will find Hard Rock Café and Arrogant Butcher.
Phoenix’s downtown area also has plenty of attractions within walking distance of Chase Field. The Arizona Science Center, Phoenix Symphony Hall, Arizona Center, and the Children’s Museum of Arizona are all near Chase Field and the downtown lodging. In addition, Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona, and the Arizona State Capitol is a welcoming place to visit. Fans that want to get away from the downtown amenities, however, can find hiking and climbing trails located in the mountains that surround Phoenix. However, please research the trails, bring plenty of water, and go with an experienced person, as every year hikers are stranded on trails.
Other options while in the area include visiting the city of Scottsdale, which is a great day trip for tourists who don’t want to leave the valley. And for the avid golfer, there are golf courses all around the Phoenix area, from Talking Stick Golf Club (which also features a casino/hotel) to San Marcos Resort in Chandler, to Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course in Tempe. These courses are located a short drive from downtown, as is the Desert Botanical Garden, which is a popular spot for nature lovers. Phoenix is a tourist destination for many, and Chase Field is in the heart of everything The Valley of the Sun offers visitors. However, the weather in December is a lot colder than normal for the area.
All bowl games besides the Playoffs and the New Year’s Six bowls can be difficult in attracting fans, but Phoenix is a great destination for travel – in the 30-year history of the game the bowl has attracted over 1.2 million fans. However, the most recent edition had stated attendance of only 33,121, which is the lowest attendance in the 30 years the bowl has existed, and even that number seemed more like 20K in attendance. Also, keeping in mind that some of the seats at Chase Field are not useable during the bowl game due to the different field configuration than for baseball, a crowd of 33K fans in attendance means only 68% capacity for the venue.
The fans at the bowl are a good mixture from both teams with their bowl allotment tickets, along with the local annual Cheez-It Bowl season ticket holders. At the most recent game (2018) the fans just weren’t very loud or into the game, but a lot of this could be the poor play by both teams in the contest. The overall result brings the fan rating to average on a big scale for a non-NY6 bowl game.
Chase Field is very accessible, as the ballpark is in downtown Phoenix at 401 E. Jefferson Street. The ballpark is located between 4th and 7th Streets near the Phoenix Convention Center and Talking Stick Resort Arena, and this area of downtown has close and easy access to both Interstate 10 and Interstate 17.
The Cheez-It Bowl organizers strongly suggest purchasing parking passes for the parking garages located near the venue at a cost of $20. However, there are cheaper lots available for $7 to $10 in the area, as well as free parking on the south side of the ballpark towards Buchanan and Lincoln Streets for the early bird arrivals. However, the biggest advantage of a downtown ballpark is the public transportation – Phoenix’s Metro Light rail system has a stop right outside Chase Field’s front entrance (check out the Metro website for detailed information to plan your trip to Chase Field).
There are also three rideshare locations for pick up and drop off at 3rd Street between Jackson Street and Jefferson Street, 5th Street just north of Washington Street, and 3rd Street between Washington and Jefferson Street; all are only a short walk away from Chase Field.
The main entrance for Chase Field is located near the box office and Game Seven Grill. Fans enter Chase Field through doors that go into the lower concourse that circles the entire field – this concourse could easily become tight with large crowds, but with the average game crowd here of late, the concourse is easy to navigate throughout the ballpark, and there is plenty of signage pointing to the different sections and seating levels. One positive note is that all the seats at Chase Field are angled towards the infield, which helps with fan comfort in the plastic seats – the best seats are the field sideline bleachers, which are the ones closest to the action. Avoid sitting in the upper deck if you don’t like steep sloped seating, although there isn’t a bad view from the upper level.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to the Cheez-It Bowl start at around $40, which is a cheap and reasonable price for a bowl game featuring two teams from Power 5 conferences. However, the Cheez-Bowl choices during the most recent game were mediocre teams from those conferences – Texas Christian University with a 6-6 record versus the University of California at 7-5 on the year. The game action reflected the mediocrity with a Cheez-It Bowl record of 9 turnovers in a TCU 10-7 overtime victory. Of course, every year is different and there have been plenty of great teams and players featured in this bowl game through its 30-year history.
There is a great chance that you can find cheaper tickets from a third-party reseller since Chase Field game will only be around 2/3 filled. The parking is reasonable even at the top price of $20, but there are options that can save you almost half of the garage price. The biggest money grabber is the concessions, which are high when the Diamondbacks are using the building, and very over-priced for a college bowl game – the restaurants near Chase Field can save you if you eat before or after the game.
Overall, the Cheez-It Bowl provides an average return on investment unless the you are a fan of the teams involved, in which case the ROI rises.
Opening the roof for the paratroopers, then closing it afterwards for the comfort of the fans during the chilly December night is a bonus. All six of the paratroopers making pinpoint landings on the field, trailing smoke and flags in support of both the participating teams, as well as the state of Arizona, is a great way to entertain the fans. Phoenix is also a great tourist spot to host this bowl game, and the field setup with the temporary bleachers is nicely done and exceeds the arrangement at Yankee Stadium in terms of fan sight lines. There are also free bags of Cheez-It crackers given away to fans entering the venue.
Phoenix and the Fiesta Bowl Committee have been providing college football fans a football destination for 30 years, and the Cheez-It Bowl really is more than a football game. The event gives to a variety of causes, creates jobs, and enhances the lives of people across Arizona.
Phoenix is a great location to travel for football during the winter months, and being able to hold two college bowl games in one city is a testament to the Fiesta Bowl committee, the volunteers, and workers that organize and execute these events.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Phoenix is a great destination, especially if you stay long enough, to attend both the Cheez-It Bowl, and PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Of Course, watching a football game in a baseball venue isn&#039t a premier way to watch football. A good bowl to attend if you team is playing in it or you are just a college football fan.