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Scottsdale’s Growth Spurt: From Sleepy Town to Knockout Hotspot

By Shana Fischer

Known as the “West’s Most Western Town”, Scottsdale has rapidly changed from a farming community into a metropolitan destination that never lost its small town feel.

Named for developer Winfield Scott in 1894, Scottsdale is 31 miles long. Fields of cotton have now made way for golf courses, and farm buildings and stables have been replaced by resorts and shopping malls.

The greatest growth has come during the last 30 years. In 1987, “Dirty Dancing” was tops at the box office, U2 debuted their iconic album, “The Joshua Tree”, and Homer Simpson and his family “doh’ed” their way onto television. Scottsdale was a fledgling city at the time, but big things were on the horizon. Major growth would occur in shopping, housing, resorts, nightlife, and other activities.

In 1987, two major resorts opened their doors. The Scottsdale Conference Resort would serve the central and southern part of the city while the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess settled into the North Scottsdale area. The Princess, as locals often call it, is a gorgeous property with six pools, great dining, and a spa that will have you in heaven. There is plenty for families to do and it’s a romantic getaway for couples or a destination spot for a girls’ weekend.

The last three decades have also seen tremendous growth in retail for the city. The Scottsdale Fashion Square which opened its doors in 1951 underwent a renovation in 1991 and today is the largest mall in the Southwest. Scottsdale Fashion Square is 2 million square feet of high end shopping including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and various smaller stores like Banana Republic, Louis Vuitton, and makeup giant, Sephora.

Scottsdale attracts more than 7 million tourists each year and many of them come to enjoy the 25 public golf courses. In 1986, the most well-known of Scottsdale’s courses was ready for play, TPC; or Tournament Players Club. Thirty years ago, PGA’s “Phoenix Open” now called the “Waste Management Open” moved to the TPC. In 2016, more than 600-thousand fans attended the event. It is the most widely attended PGA event.

Nightlife and the arts have also grown. Old Town Scottsdale, once known as a tourist mecca for its art galleries and Native American and Southwestern art spaces has made way for nightclubs and restaurants. Scottsdale used to be home to a smattering of restaurants, mostly chain, and now there are at least a dozen award-winning spots. And, where the sidewalks used to roll up at 9pm, you can find nightclubs, bars, and comedy clubs. Another activity that has seen growth is Spring Training. The first pitch at Scottsdale Stadium was thrown out in 1992 and the stadium is the home of the San Francisco Giants. Just up the road is Talking Stick Fields. Open in 2011, it is the spring home for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.

One thing that has not changed too much is the breathtaking scenery. Hiking, biking, and outdoor activities have always been popular. Take a stroll along the “Greenbelt”, a several-mile long stretch of green grass and biking and walking paths that winds its way from McCormick Ranch to the edge of South Scottsdale. The McDowell Mountains also have some of the best hiking trails in the state. And in the last few years, the city has added Segway tours, a chance to check out Old Town Scottsdale in a very 21st century way.

Scottsdale has undergone a Renaissance during the last 30 years from an undeveloped quiet western town into a more sophisticated, glamourous destination. It truly has lived up to the title it earned in 1993 as the “Most Livable City” in the country.