2021 Tempe Visitors Guide
Now a burgeoning city, Tempe, Arizona has a humble beginning rooted in agriculture. Named for it rich valley on the banks of a wide river, settlers thought it bore a resemblance to ancient Greece.
Tempe grew in popularity after the establishment of Fort McDowell on the eastern edge of central Arizona’s Salt River Valley in 1865. Farmers moved into the area and dug irrigation canals left by the prehistoric Hohokam people to carry Salt River water to their fields. Valley farms soon supplied food to Arizona’s military posts and outlining mining towns. The first settlers were Hispanic.
In 1872, some of these Mexican settlers founded a town called San Pablo near Tempe Butte, another small colony nearby. Within a few years, the settlement was home to stores and a flour mill, warehouses, blacksmith shops, and a ferry, and soon the community became the trade center for the south side of the Salt River Valley. Both settlements grew quickly and soon formed one and it was named Tempe in 1879, inspired by the river and the nearby expanse of green fields; it was named for the Vale of Tempe in ancient Greece.
Soon the city was known for alfalfa and grains for feeding livestock, the network of canals carrying water to more than 20,000 acres of prime farmland. Crops of wheat, barley, and oats ensured a steady business for the emerging economy. The flour was hauled to forts and other settlements throughout the territory. By the 1890s, some farmers started growing new cash crops such as dates and citrus fruits.
In 1885, the Arizona legislature selected Tempe as the site for the Territorial Normal School, which trained teachers for Arizona’s schools. Other changes in Tempe promoted the development of the small farming community and the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad, built in 1887, crossed the Salt River at Tempe, linking the town to the rest of the country and bringing their cash crops with them. The city quickly became one of the most important business and shipping centers in the area.
In 1911, the completion of the Roosevelt Dam guaranteed enough water to meet the growing needs of Valley farmers. A year later, the territory became the 48th state and the future population center for the Southwest. After World War II, the small farms died out as the city grew with the influx of veterans, and Arizona State University took over for the teacher’s college.
- Tempe is in Maricopa County and has a population estimated at about 160,000 people.
- The median income for a household in the city is about $43,000, and the median income for a family was $55,000
- Men had a median income of $36,400 versus $28,600 for women.
Tempe Recreation & Attractions
Tempe is the definition of a city filled with cultural venues, art, and entertainment. Along with almost any cuisine imaginable, the city is full of offerings, many of the options found in much large, more populated economic centers. Among the long list of cultural venues, some include the Edna Vihel Activities Building, in the city’s Community Center complex, which opens its doors to participation in the arts to children and adults offering classes in the visual and performing arts.
The Tempe Historical Museum collects, preserves and exhibits aspects of Tempe’s history. The Tempe Symphony Orchestra presents four free annual concerts at Boyle Auditorium in McClintock High School. The orchestra, formed in 1973, is composed of approximately 80 musicians.
Arizona State University contributes to Tempe’s cultural scene with the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.
Downtown Tempe can stand on its own as a cultural center, too. The Spring and Fall Festivals of the Arts draws nearly 250,000 people respectively. Visitors may take in art, food and free live entertainment. The events are held on the first weekend of December and March and are the second-largest juried art festivals in the nation.
Childsplay is a professional company of adult actors performs for young people. Founded in 1977, the group has performed for more than 750,000 children and adults throughout the Southwest and is housed in the Tempe Performing Arts Center in downtown Tempe.
Additionally, the award-winning parks and recreation department hosts more than 1,200 acres in 47 parks and facilities including two 18-hole golf courses. Baseball comes to town every February as the Los Angeles Angels practice and plays spring training games at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Tempe also is the home to college football’s annual Fiesta Bowl. Additionally, there’s biking, kayaking, canoeing, skating and picnicking.
Tempe dining offers range from casual or elegant, even the most discerning palate will be pleased. Cuisines from around the world can be found here including Middle Eastern, Asian, Mexican and American. There are several microbreweries, sports bars and pubs, as well.
Business and Economy
Tempe has the highest concentration of high technology firms in Arizona. In addition, it has the densest industrial area in Arizona and represents the highest concentration of businesses in Arizona. While Tempe represents less than four percent of the state’s population, more than 15 percent of Arizona’s high-tech companies are located in Tempe. The city is actually the 7th largest in the state. Tempe, though seemingly removed from the many other United States business centers, is actually the home to a thriving business community. In actuality, the city has a prime location near Phoenix, which contributes to it success in attracting and keeping companies here. Tempe also is home to more than 106 office complexes and developments.
Arizona State University’s Research Park is an example of the type of developments found here. The park was established in 1984 to help build relationships between the university and industries and covers 323 acres with tenants primarily in research and development.
Major companies located in the Research Park include Motorola Labs and Edward Jones Brokerage. The Research Park boasts more than 18 acres of an environment of mature landscaping, three lakes, six miles of jogging paths and tennis courts. Tempe is the home to Honeywell, America West Airlines, Medtronic Microelectronics, America West Airlines, Motorola and Chase Manhattan Bank, among many others.
Tempe’s favorable tax structure and proactive approach to business development, combined with its prime location, create the ideal climate for businesses to grow and prosper. As a city, Tempe has started an initiative to foster business growth and encourage development that allows for creativity in the economy. The city has exploded in the past two decades, fostered by the development of high-tech industry, financial, insurance, tourism, and academic ventures.