The Fiesta Bowl offices were temporarily closed Wednesday, May 11, 2011 in Scottsdale, Ariz. when a ruling came down from the BCS presidential oversight committee to let the Fiesta Bowl remain part of the system for deciding college football's national champion. The Fiesta Bowl will be allowed to remain part of the Bowl Championship Series, though it must pay a $1 million fine for apparent illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Matt York

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix-area hotel and nightclub operators that rely on the Fiesta Bowl to bring in millions of dollars a year in revenue breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday after the announcement that the game will remain a part of the Bowl Championship Series.

The Fiesta, Insight and BCS title games bring tens of thousands of fans, teams and media to Arizona during a slow period after the holidays and kick off the state's tourist season, said Kristen Jarnagin, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association.

Those visitors and the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend during the bowl season were threatened by the possibility that the Fiesta Bowl would be kicked out of the BCS.

If that had happened, the Insight and Fiesta bowls would have continued, but the Fiesta would have had a much lower profile and would no longer have been in the rotation to host the BCS championship game every four years. State and local governments, which benefit from the extra tax dollars the games bring to the state, would also lose.

"It's terrific news for the state of Arizona, for our image, that we don't have something like that leaving," Jarnagin said. "They keep a lot of people employed during the week and a half to two weeks that they're here. They also provide amazing exposure for our state, our weather, and that is priceless for our tourism industry."

State Sen. Michele Reagan echoed Jarnagin's comments. The Republican represents Scottsdale, where the teams and many tourists stay.

"That was my biggest fear, is that if we lost being in the BCS rotation the entire state loses," said Reagan, who chairs the state Senate's Economic Development & Jobs Creation committee. "All I can say is I'm very pleased. Nobody wants the state economy to suffer. It's big money, especially for our district.

"Downtown Scottsdale becomes flooded with tourists, and that's what we want," Reagan said.

The Fiesta Bowl's place in the rotation was imperiled after an internal report released in March detailed about $45,000 in reimbursements to employees for political donations, an apparent violation of federal and state laws. It also revealed lavish and inappropriate spending, such as $33,000 for a Pebble Beach, Calif., birthday bash for then-CEO and President John Junker, $13,000 for the wedding and honeymoon of an aide, and a $1,200 strip club tab for Junker and two others. Junker has been fired.

The BCS title game brought in $171.5 million in direct spending in 2006-07, according to an Arizona State University analysis. All together, the three games and associated events brought in more than $400 million in direct spending and $10.1 million in state and local taxes in 2006-07.

"Why do you think that people fight for the right to host these championship games?" said Dennis Hoffman, an economics professor at ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business. "They're a big deal as an injection to the local community in terms of these dollars.

Hoffman also noted the immeasurable impact of the games on the state's image.

"It leaves a lasting impression that extends beyond those immediate dollars," he said. "That could translate into future trips to the state, perhaps business trips to the state."

Just as important is the television audience of millions, who are tantalized by fans basking in the sparkling desert sunshine in January.

"You just get these images of the Southwest and I think the imagery that is portrayed to the nation on these championships days is an important factor," Hoffman said.

For the city of Glendale, home to University of Phoenix Stadium, where the BCS and Fiesta Bowl games are played, the relief felt by the knowledge that the Fiesta will remain in the rotation is huge.

"It means our hotels will be filled, visitors from all the country will be coming to Glendale and eating in our restaurants and shopping in our shops," said Jerry McCoy, a city spokesman.

During those years when the BCS title game is held in Arizona, Glendale sees double the number of visitors and hotel rooms sold.

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