“There ain’t no better time, I’m talking here and now (here and now); I’m talking here and now. Let’s go!” These are lyrics from popular musician Ne-Yo’s hit song “Let’s Go,” and could easily be the theme song for the dynamic and vast West Valley entertainment migration. From the ever-evolving and expanding Westgate Entertainment District and bustling Village of Prasada to Goodyear’s new GSQ Civic Square complex and impending Verrado Marketplace, there truly is no better time for entertainment growth in the West Valley.

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Circling back to Ne-Yo — the music artist recently opened Johnny’s Chicken & Waffles with Chef Crystal Smith in Glendale’s burgeoning Westgate Entertainment District. 

“We are so excited to be bringing Johnny’s Chicken & Waffles to Arizona,” Smith says. “We’ve had such a great experience with our original location and can’t wait to bring our musically focused vibes and mouth-watering food to a new city.”

Entertainment magnet

The City of Glendale, like many other municipalities in the West Valley as of late, is more than happy to welcome unique and fresh dining offerings to the region. 

“In Glendale, we leverage opportunities through our business relationships to help attract experiential attractions to the city,” says Kevin Phelps, city manager for the City of Glendale.

“One of those key stakeholders is the Westgate Entertainment District, owned by YAM Properties. In the case of attracting quality tenants to the entertainment district, the City of Glendale plays a secondary role.”

Phelps goes on to explain that while the city assists in securing new business operations by prioritizing expediting permitting and problem-solving, Glendale also actively utilizes city-controlled communication channels to promote businesses and aid in their ultimate success.

PopStroke, the unique golf entertainment experience created by Tiger Woods and his TGR Design Team, also took up residence in Glendale this spring. The two 18-hole putting courses are fitted with synthetic turfs, fairways and bunkers indicative of traditional golf courses, but are designed for the singular use of a putter, inviting all ages to play. 

“We are very excited to introduce our unique entertainment experience to the Glendale-Phoenix community,” says PopStroke Founder Greg Bartoli. “PopStroke is about bringing friends together to enjoy the great game of golf in a fun, dynamic and stress-free environment while enjoying elevated food, cocktails, ice cream, and a host of other amenities. The Greater Phoenix Metropolitan market is a world-class golf destination with a vibrant and growing mix of families, retirees and young professionals. The Westgate Entertainment District is an ideal location for our first ever Arizona PopStroke venue.”

The Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise’s second 184,000-square-foot casino, constructed on the southeast corner of Loop 303 and Northern Parkway, is slated to open in 2024. (Rendering provided by Desert Diamond Casinos)

Brand expansion

Beyond the collaborative economic development and marketing efforts of Glendale, Phelps explains that the success of existing businesses is paramount in attracting new entertainment concepts to the West Valley. This assertion is strongly evidenced in the proliferation of existing entertainment and dining concepts that have expanded — or plan to expand — their footprint throughout the West Valley. 

“Our new casino will build on the success of our first West Valley property and help create another economic powerhouse for the region to enjoy,” says Mike Bean, CEO of Desert Diamond Casinos. 

The Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise (TOGE) opened its first 1.2 million-square-foot Desert Diamond Casino West Valley location at 9431 W. Northern Avenue, close to Glendale and Peoria. Its second 184,000-square-foot casino, constructed on the southeast corner of Loop 303 and Northern Parkway, is slated to open in 2024. 

“From the very start, we have always understood the importance of working together with our neighbors in Glendale, Peoria, Tolleson, Surprise and many others,” Bean says. “By building partnerships with local leaders, we’re able to work constructively on growth while exploring new opportunities like our naming rights partnership with Desert Diamond Arena.”

The collaborative efforts that Bean mentions, not only at individual city levels but also reinforced and supported regionally, have helped several restaurant group concepts including Westside Concepts, Maggiore Group and Saddle Mountain Brewery Company to broaden their presence throughout the West Valley. 

Joe Lucidi of Westside Concepts has several eateries spread throughout the West Valley — from Buckeye to Peoria — including Haymaker, NW Coffee, Cantina Gueros, Fire House Event Center and will open its new Brick and Mortar establishment in Goodyear’s GSQ corridor. 

Maggiore Group established its Arrogant Butcher, Arrogant Baker and Hash Kitchen restaurants at the Park West shopping center in Peoria, adding a second Hash Kitchen at popular Peoria destination P83 Arrowhead. 

Saddle Mountain Brewery Company’s owner Laura Hansen’s success in Buckeye led her to pursue a joint venture with fellow West Valley Enroute Coffee and Tea House co-founders, Brittany Salazar and Deni Banach with the opening of New Penny Cafe near the American Sports Complex.  

In 2019, the Goodyear City Council unanimously approved the development agreement for Goodyear Civic Square at GSQ, which officially opened in August of 2022. (Provided image)

Clustering and corridors

One area of economic development in which the West Valley has prospered is in its entertainment districts and complexes. 

“Clustering is a huge advantage for the West Valley and Glendale in particular,” Phelps notes. “There are certain industries and business sectors that benefit from clustering. In simple terms, clustering is the co-location of similar types of businesses. Sectors like car dealerships, hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants and retail all benefit from clustering.”  

Westgate, Park West, Village at Prasada and P83 have helped to attract a variety of dining and retail shops, but that’s not all. Westgate, for example, provided proof that a mixed-use concept can not only survive but also thrive in the West Valley. Because of Westgate and its sister entertainment corridors, the region is seeing even more cluster-concept arrivals.

In the summer of 2023, Globe Corporation completed the development of Goodyear’s Civic Square and Civic Park, completing their 103,000-square-foot, Class-A office next door shortly after. 

As for entertainment and dining options, the GSQ corridor is off and running. 

“The next phase, which we’ve started construction on is the retail phase,” says ​​George Getz, director, president and co-CEO of Globe Corporation. “We’ve got great reception for restaurants and some stores that want go into the retail aspect of GSQ.”

Among other arrivals to GSQ are dining and country music venue Stillery, F45 Training Goodyear fitness studio, Westside Concepts Brick and Mortar, The Yard Milkshake Bar and more. 

“On the other side of the Stillery, we are working with a great seafood restaurant,” Getz says, currently in the Southeast Valley, that’s coming to the West Valley called High Tide. They’ll have an oyster bar, fresh fish, lobsters, clams — all types of seafood.”

On the heels of Goodyear GSQ is the highly-anticipated Verrado Marketplace in Buckeye. DMB Associates and Vestar announced that the proposed shopping mecca will include movie theaters, a gym, a grocery store and ample retail options. The project is set to break ground in mid-2023.

In North Peoria, residents of the master-planned community Vistancia eagerly await Five North at Vistancia, a collection of shopping and dining options clustered within a 320-acre commercial space.

Stand-alone stars

Amidst the surge of West Valley mixed-use retail/entertainment hubs are large-scale, stand-alone projects such as the Mattel Adventure Park — the first-ever Mattel branded theme park slated to open in Glendale in 2023  — and neighboring VAI Resort. 

“VAI Resort will be the largest resort in Arizona and the premier day-life, nightlife and entertainment destination in the U.S.,” says Grant Fisher, president of VAI Resort. “This unprecedented $1 billion, 60-acre oasis of luxurious fun draws inspiration from hotspots around the world, from Mykonos and Dubai to Miami and Tulum.” 

The influx of entertainment contributions to the West Valley has not only profoundly altered the quality of life for its residents by eliminating the need to travel to more dense-entertainment-rich locales, but it also has — and continues — to boost job creation and the local economy. 

According to Fisher, “VAI Resort will [drive] economic expansion through national and global tourism, becoming a leading employer in the state with the creation of 1800 to 2000 jobs.”

Phelps anticipates the retail and entertainment sector will only continue to rise. “I know of several large, experiential-type projects that are doing their due diligence on the region,” he says. “I am confident to say that our entertainment district could grow by 25-50% in the next 5-plus years.”