Tags: Events | Arts & Culture | Restaurants & Dining | Shopping & Leisure

A Tourist in My Own Downtown

Posted 05.22.15 by Lori

Once a month, I have the pleasure of taking Downtown Tempe’s Safe-T-Patrol and Ground Support teams on a Familiarization tour. These FAM Tours are a blast! I get to spend some quality time with the people who work so hard to keep our downtown clean & safe, and I also get to be a tourist of the city in which I live and work. Not a bag gig, huh? I know you’ve seen the guys in bright yellow shirts – they're your Safe-T-Patrol. Hopefully you’ve noticed the folks in red shirts as well – that’s your Ground Support team. Together the two teams act as ambassadors for Downtown Tempe.

In the last couple of months, we’ve visited many iconic places on our FAM Tours in Downtown Tempe and each time I learn something new. For example, guess where I will be at 9:39am on Sunday, June 21st? In case you didn’t know, June 21st is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and I will be smack dab in the center of the Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge. Why you ask? Because one of the artistic and architectural features of the bridge is that the shadows of the crossed steel arches that run along the top of the bridge will line up with the scored concrete paths on the bridge footpath. When the bridge was built in 2011, they lined the entire span of the bridge with City of Tempe employees. When the sun was directly overhead, they all bent down and began tracing the shadow of the upper arches with markers. The paths they drew are now the scored concrete.  

We learned this from Chris Kabala, Tempe’s Engineering Construction Manager for the Pedestrian Bridge. He was our guide early this spring for a tour of the bridge and the new hydraulic-operated steel gate dam just west of the bridge.  

On the same tour, we also got to peek behind the scenes at Tempe Center for the Arts. Don Fasinger, Manager at the TCA, told us that in spite of being under the flight path of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the building keeps exterior sounds out. In addition, the 10” thick walls and roof of the two theaters and the gallery keep it quiet. You can see the planes through the glass as they fly over, but you can’t hear them. A-mazing! 

Last fall, we toured Sun Devil Stadium and were able to tap the entrance of the Tillman Tunnel (just like the players do!), stand in the tunnel for a group picture, watch the team practice briefly (no cameras, please!) on the field and see the spectacular views from the MidFirst Bank Stadium Club. It’s enough to make this former Wildcat consider season tickets. Well, not really, but it was really cool!

On another tour, Mark Vinson, City Architect/Design & Preservation Manager, guided us through the interior of the Hayden Flour Mill. Built in 1918, the Mill is the oldest cast-in-place concrete building in Tempe and was designed to be fire-proof (since the two previous buildings built in 1874 and 1895 were both lost to fire). Now several cats rule the roost and keep the rats at bay, no doubt. 

One of my favorite tours so far was our visit to House of Tricks. Robin Trick pulled out all the stops for our crew by seating us on their beautiful patio and treating us to fresh raspberry iced tea and assorted sweet and savory treats as she told us how she and her husband Robert started their business. I loved listening to her stories about how they started by running a catering business out of one of the houses, about Robert’s mom taking care of the patio plants and the cats. Yes, that’s right...the cats that have their own cutout in the back gate so they can come and go as they please.

I love being a tourist in my own city...you should try it!


Places Mentioned: Hayden Flour Mill, House of Tricks Restaurant, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe Center for the Arts