Sun Cities Today Blog

Welcome to the communities that changed a nation!

Archive for the month “June, 2011”

112 and Rising…

“But it’s a dry heat!” Let’s get this one out-of-the-way before we even begin to look at the whole temperature issues we face in the desert come June, July and August. Yes it’s hot; okay? We all agree?

For those of you visiting Arizona for the first time, here’s a shopping tip; stop by a Walgreen and get your “Dry Heat” t-shirts complete with bones and buzzards. They can be had for something like three for $10 or $12; you know if you wait to get them at the airport gift shops you’ll be forking over that kind of money for one of them. Once you’re past the novelty of wearing it a time or two, it sits in a drawer until you give it to a thrift store to sell for a quarter. A quick note to those very frugal (cheap), if you go to the thrift store to buy a used Dry Heat t-shirt as a gift for a grand child or even one of your own, it is tacky to get one worn by someone else and has those ugly arm pit stains.

I digress; what is so inherently cool (and refreshing) is contained in the old black and white photo above. For as long as Sun City has been up and running, solving and beating the torrid summer heats hasn’t changed much. Air conditioning was offered in the initial series of model homes for a mere $650 and the first recreation center was open and available for those needing to take the plunge.

We know it today as Oakmont rec center, but in those early years it was called Community Center. Personally i prefer the original name, in that it sounded like a place the new residents could hang out; and Lordy, did they. The back patio overlooking the ninth hole of the North golf course was just the kind of setting that made visitors drool and long to move here; and the pool was to die for.

Today we have six functioning rec centers and a brand new one that will open in the next month or two. Each has at least one pool and whirlpools are at most of the centers as well. Amazing to think an outdoor whirlpool with temperatures set at hundred 104 degrees can feel as good as they do when the surface temperatures are even higher…sometimes by as much as ten to fifteen degrees.

The indoor pool at Sundial always gets lots of action. When it opened in 1972 it was one of the largest pools in the country. When they remodeled the Bell Rec Center a few years back, they added a serpentine walking pool that is almost always full with those excercising their limbs or in some cases working on improving their communication skills (stay to the right please). The new Fairway Center will be magnificent. The two phases cost a total of $18,200,000.00 and the best part of it will be there is no debt. An open air pool with a second story walking track around it will provide those living in Phase 1 with a much-needed upgrade.

Let’s just conclude with this simple summary: My wife and i spent 55 years in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. We averaged about three months of blue sky’s and warm sunshine (i’m being generous) a year. Gray was the order of the day and layers of clothes was just how one lived. When we moved to the valley of the sun, life changed. Our wardrobe got smaller because t-shirts, shorts and sandals were really all we needed (except for the occasional wake/funeral). In my opinion, just a way better way to live.

True story: We were here visiting in our house in May of 2002. Just prior to leaving on a Saturday afternoon we took our no speed Schwinn’s out for a quick spin. It was 105 degrees out, but we rode without as much of a drop of perspiration forming on us. We got back to Minnesota and walking to our car in the parking garage it was a balmy 85 degrees. Unfortunately the humidity levels were around 100 and by the time we loaded the luggage in the car we were soaking wet.

Yup, it’s hot here…112 just the other day. But i’ve got to tell you, i would take that in New York minute over the nasty humidity, freezing cold and dreary gray days that cover the state so often. Just a better way to live out here. I’m off to the pool. Nice.


The Sundome…Boondoggle or Brilliant?

Much has been made of Sun City West’s involvement in or with the Sundome. It currently sits empty and stripped of most things of any value. ASU got it back from Maricopa County a few years back and are the owners of it. The land it sits on is far more valuable than the huge building. Potential new owners see it only as a white elephant, but the history of the building is important to both Sun City West and Sun City residents. Below you will find cut lines from the Sun City West display we have at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum and at the very end is a link to a fabulous piece tucked away in our cabinets regarding the construction of this once magnificent structure.

“The Nation’s Largest Indoor Theater on One Level”…
…was a result of thousands of Sun City residents who brought lawn chairs to the open-air Sun Bowl to hear Bob Hope and other entertainers. Meeker wanted to entertain people inddors in air-conditioned comfort.

Seating 7,169, the Sundome officially opened at 8 PM on Sept 13, 1980 with Lawrence Welk giving the downbeat to start the show.

Four huge trusses, including two 250 feet in length and 19 feet thick at the center, support the steel decks and roofing on the Sundome. Each truss weighed in excess of 115,000 pounds, requiring two cranes and precise placement on a still day.

To allow for expansion, the trusses rested on end supports that permitted movement. Despite the roof’s immense weight, this design feature allowed the roof to lift during a tremendous windstorm in 1996 and fall back a foot from where it should be. It cost $500,000 to reposition and secure the roof.

The 108,000 sq ft area of the Sundome floor is large enough to accommodate two football fields side-by-side.

The Sundome provided a great variety of entertainment. It hosted a circus twice and the Barrett-Jackson auto auction. Among the performers were George Burns, Dolly Parton, Bill Cosby, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Andy Williams, Bob Hope, Willie Nelson, Jim Nabors and many others.

DEVCO was concerned with the future of the Sundome when the company would withdraw from the community and sold it to Arizona State University for $1 in December of 1984.

You don’t want to miss this article: Contractor Engineer Article

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I climbed aboard my no speed Schwinn bike this Sunday morning, the quiet and the calm swallowing me as i took to the road. There were hardly any cars about and my mind drifted like it often does. That old haunting song by the man in black started running through my head and i couldn’t shake it; not that i wanted to. I wasn’t a big fan of Johnny Cash, but i did love Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Bad voice and all, i sang the words the entire three miles to the museum. Once here, i immediately did a Google search and found it was written by Kris Kristofferson. Great story on Kris: He was working as a janitor at Columbia records even though he had a Master’s degree at Oxford University, had been a captain in the US Army and offered a professor position at West Point.

The song just always had an earthy, gritty feel. It brought back those memories of days gone by when work was all i knew; when a beer for breakfast wasn’t all that far removed from my daily existence. It touched a reality cord that now days i get to forget. Life in Sun City is often akin to living in a Utopian setting and more often than not it’s all good. Well, almost all good.

My wife noticed a leak in our neighbors hose outside yesterday afternoon. Beth had a stroke three months back and family members were watching the house. We had their number and alerted them to the problem. Lori asked how Beth was doing, a moment later i heard her say, “i’m so sorry to hear that.” No mystery there; Beth had died about a month back. She was in her mid 80’s and the severity of the stroke was such that this may have been a blessing.

It started me thinking; we’ve lived in our home since May of 2003. In that time we have now seen two sets of next door neighbors pass on. As i look up and down our street, i can barely count the number of times we have seen the ambulance one day and the for sale sign weeks later. It’s just a way of life (or in this case death) in Sun City.

I’ve said it before; every day in Sun City is Saturday or Sunday. Life in Sun City sometimes resembles the 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. It’s deja vu all over again. In my opinion, that’s a good thing. As i watch neighbors come and go, all i can think of is how grateful i am we were able to get here at the age we did. So often people wait till they are very old to come to the valley of the sun. If i can leave you with one piece of advice; get here as soon as you can.

Those old lyrics from Johnny still take me back in time, but in all candor, i don’t want to be back there. While the soulful reminiscence is nice, life here is just too good to be anywhere else.

The Best Marketing Program Ever That Didn’t Make It

We have hundreds of full-page ads from 1960 to mid 1965. Simply put, they are brilliant. The task in front of the DEVCO/Webb company was worse than that corny old adage; “tougher than selling ice cubes to Eskimo’s.” Literally, it was akin to crossing the Mohave desert without water. In fact, as you read this, click on this link to help you understand what they were facing.

Sorry, love that song and the movie for that matter. The point is, trying to sell Sun City in 1960 was the impossible dream. People retired and lived within blocks of their children. They became the baby sitters; their mission in life was to help their kids get by. It was unthinkable to feel it was their time to enjoy life and find something more.

Throw in the task of this retirement mecca being in the middle of nowhere and it went beyond impossible. Given that, Sun City’s success begs the question…how the hell did they do it? The answers are many and varied, but it all started with planting the seed there was a better way to live. A massive marketing campaign began before the first house was built.

Webb ran a contest to name the new city in the sun. Ads across the nation invited people to participate with the chance to win a new home. He pushed a “new active way of life” in everything that was published; it was burned in a potential buyers mind. Magazines, newspapers and other media outlets called it the “great social experiment.”

But the free coverage was minimal in relationship to what they knew they needed. A massive advertising budget was put in play and 50 ad writers were hired to inspire a nation to want more in retirement. Ads saturated cold weather climates and every one of them promised a new, better way to live out those golden years. Here’s just a few of the headers from those ads:
* They came to LOOK and stayed to LIVE!
* The town that made everyone wish they were 50.
* The town with the most even disposition in America…HAPPY ALL THE TIME!
* Variety is the way of life.
* Every day is the nicest thing that ever happened.
* Fun is measured by the acre here.
* There are no “underfoot husbands (or bored wives) in Del Webb’s Sun City.
* Vacation fun never ends in Del Webb’s Sun City.
* Retired living is full of life.
* Nobody’s on the sidelines, everyone’s in the game of active living.
* Step into the wonderful new world of accomplishment.
* The town where everyone concentrates on Living.
* Gosh gramps, are you ever lucky!.

Every ad was filled with photo’s of people living life to their fullest. It was people in the prime of their lives doing things they would want to be doing. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? Throw in the 1962 film The Beginning, and one quickly starts to understand how enticing the idea of a better way to live was planted in their mind.

It was a fabulous ad campaign, but it wasn’t good enough. By 1965 sales in all three Sun Cities communities (Florida, Arizona and California) had bottomed out and Del Webb was concerned enough to take drastic action. Uncharacteristic of him, he made moves like never before. He issued ultimatums and wanted action from those running the DEVCO show.

Those dark days in mid 1965 proved to be some of the most challenging for the DEVCO Corporation. Webb was a survivor and he took one of the most drastic steps in his history. But to find out what happened, you will have to move to my other blog for the rest of the story. Stay tuned.

Post Navigation