Axios Phoenix

Picture of the Phoenix skyline.

January 27, 2023

It's Friday. We made it! 🎉

Today's weather: 62 and sunny, with similarly temperate conditions throughout the weekend. ☀️

🎉 Congratulations to Janice P. and Patrick H., yesterday's "Where in the Valley" winners!

  • The bronze bulldog statue is at Vela on Camelback apartments (formerly Alta Camelback) on North Seventh Street between Camelback Road and Highland Avenue.

Today's newsletter is 938 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Major League Pickleball hits Mesa

A logo that says "MLP by Margaritaville Mesa"

Photo: Courtsey of Major League Pickleball

Big names in sports and entertainment have their eyes fixed on an upcoming athletic event in the Valley.

No, we're not talking about the Super Bowl. It's the nation's fastest-growing sport: pickleball.

What's happening: Major League Pickleball (MLP), the buzzy pro circuit, is hosting its first competition of the year at Mesa's Bell Bank Park, which kicked off yesterday and will continue through Sunday.

Why it matters: Professional and recreational pickleball's popularity has exploded, with an 11.5% average annual growth rate among recreational players over the past five years. Celebrities such as Tom Brady, Kevin Durant and Heidi Klum have purchased pro teams.

State of play: This weekend's tournament has two levels: the Premier Level, made up of the top 48 players drafted, and the Challenger Level, which consists of the next 48.

  • Premier teams will all play today, with quarterfinals tomorrow, semifinals Sunday morning and the final showdown that night.
  • The Challenger tournament kicked off yesterday and will conclude Sunday at 2pm.

Zoom in: Arizona's MLP team, AZ Drive, is in the Challenger Level and faced the Atlanta Bouncers, Brooklyn Aces and Dallas Pickleball Club yesterday. The Drive won only one match, failing to advance to the quarterfinals.

  • A group of notable Arizonans, including former Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald, Suns star Devin Booker, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and country music star Dierks Bentley collectively own AZ Drive.

What they're saying: Fitzgerald isn't just a financier — he also picked up the sport as a hobby during the pandemic. And he takes his performance seriously.

  • "People pick fights with me and I just finish them," he told 12 News. "You know what I mean? I'm not out here looking for trouble. Like 50 Cent says, 'I don't want any problems, but if you want a problem, no problem. I got you.'"

How to watch the action

2. Dems and GOP to pick new state leaders

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Arizona's Democratic and Republican parties will each have new leaders tomorrow when their respective state committees meet to elect new chairs.

Why it matters: State parties help dictate election strategy, determine how significant amounts of money are spent and generally set the tone for their parties.

How it works: Precinct committeemen — the elected voting members of the parties' legislative district-level organizations — choose members of the parties' state committees, who elect chairs and other statewide officers every two years.

  • The Arizona Republican Party will meet at Dream City Church in Phoenix.
  • The Arizona Democratic Party will conduct its meeting via Zoom.

Zoom in: Democrats have their most hotly contested race for chair in 12 years, pitting party vice chair and union organizer Yolanda Bejarano against Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo.

  • The outgoing chair, state Sen. Raquel Terán, decided not to seek another term.

The big picture: Both parties are in the midst of shifting political dynamics.

  • Republicans, long the state's dominant party, are hoping to reverse a string of losses in recent election cycles that saw them lose the presidential race, both U.S. Senate seats and Arizona's top statewide offices.
  • Democrats want to capitalize on recent wins and carry that momentum to 2024, when the presidency, the legislature, a Senate seat and several competitive U.S. House seats will be on the line.

The intrigue

3. Mr. Pickle's settles into the Valley

A sub sandwich cut in half.

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

👋 Jeremy here.

Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop opened its first Arizona outpost in north Scottsdale last week, so I decided to see what the California eatery has to offer.

Details: The chain relocated its headquarters to Arizona last year under new ownership, according to What Now Phoenix.

  • The new restaurant is at 10701 N. Scottsdale Road, on the northeast corner of the intersection with Shea Boulevard.
  • Mr. Pickle's is planning to expand rapidly in Arizona, with five more locations slated for Chandler, Laveen, San Tan Valley and Surprise, and a second restaurant in north Scottsdale.

What I ordered: When you're trying something for the first time, you might as well go for the original, so I got The Mr. Pickle, with chicken breast, bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and avocado.

  • Hot take: It was good but nothing to write home about.

Share with a foodie

4. Chips and salsa: Trump and the audit

Illustration of a margarita with a lime that is shining like the sun.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

📱 Newly released text messages show communications between people representing former President Trump and the people who ran the so-called audit of the 2020 Maricopa County election. (AZcentral)

🏀 Billionaire Mat Ishbia's purchase of the majority stake of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury is expected to be final before the NBA's Feb. 9 trade deadline. (ESPN)

🔥 Guy Fieri is throwing a free Super Bowl tailgate in Glendale before the big game. (KTAR)

🚨 Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said her office will continue to request the death penalty despite Gov. Katie Hobbs' announcement that the state will pause executions to review protocols. (Phoenix New Times)

Seeking employment?

🎾 The ball is in your court. Check out these opportunities.

  1. Senior Producer, Partner Marketing at Phoenix Suns.
  2. Director, Corporate & Community Communications at Arizona Diamondbacks.
  3. Human Resources Manager at AAA.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. Things to do in the Valley this weekend

Illustration of an animated neutral emoji changing into a smiling-with-sunglasses emoji.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

It's the weekend, and there's no shortage of fun around the Valley.

  • So if you're looking for something to do, we've got you covered.
The Arizona Wine Festival

When and where: 11am-7pm tomorrow and 11am-5pm Sunday at Phoenix's Heritage Square.

Details: Sample goods from 20 Arizona wineries, complemented by food trucks, vendors, art and live music.

Cost: $20-35

Scottsdale Country Crawl

When and where: 2-8pm tomorrow at 7295 E. Stetson Drive

Details: Enjoy cheap drinks and country music as you tour the bars of Old Town.

Cost: $20-30


When and where: 9am-1pm tomorrow at Gilbert Regional Park.

Details: Family-friendly event with trucks of all kinds, which people can board, along with food trucks and inflatables.

Cost: $5 pre-sale and $10 at the gate. Children under 3 are free.

📺 Jeremy will be on the Journalists' Roundtable at 5pm today on "Arizona Horizon" on PBS today.

❤️‍🔥 Jessica hopes she can get into Guy Fieri's tailgate!

This newsletter was edited by Gigi Sukin and copy edited by Jay Bennett.

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