Mecum Auto Auction part of growing auto-enthusiast flare in Phoenix

On any given Sunday in the fall, the Arizona Cardinals pack State Farm Stadium in Glendale with its max capacity of about 63,000. That’s basically the size of a promising and growing young city on the rise. But what if you replaced football fanatics with classic and rare car enthusiasts? That’s what Mecum Auctions, a Wisconsin-based collector car auctioneer, was aiming for at a recent auto auction it held inside the stadium.

The auction company took over State Farm Stadium touting about 1,300 collectible cars, such as a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro and a 1966 Shelby GT, rarities and must-haves in the collector car community. The inaugural four-day event brought in car fans from across the state and the country, including sellers and buyers from Chicago, Minnesota, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It also showcased vintage motorcycles, tractors and automobile-related art.

Mecum hosted social events as well, putting together packages for auction attendees including meet and greet social hours at the Westgate District and a happy hour at nearby TopGolf, showing that auto auctions like these are more than just bidding on collectible cars.

“This was our biggest first-time event ever, in the history of Mecum Auctions,” Mecum CEO Dave Magers said. “State Farm is our largest and oldest sponsor. We decide to cancel our Pomona event and chose Phoenix. We really hit it out of the park.”

The Mecum event at State Farm Stadium was initially supposed to be a two-day affair, with a lineup of about 600 vehicles. But within the first few days of opening up the auction block to people who wanted to sell their cars the event sold out. So, Magers decided to add a third day, only to be sold out again. So, he added a fourth, which was also sold out.

The event was so popular, seeing cars sell for anywhere between $5,000 to $1 million, that it’s already slated for another go next March. Altogether, the auction saw about $30 million in auto transactions.

Auto auctions are not new to the Greater Phoenix area. The Barrett-Jackson auction, held every January in North Scottsdale’s WestWorld, has developed into a massive event over the years. The auto event brings in enthusiasts from far and wide, such as Mecum, and has a major economic impact on the region as it’s grown. The annual auction brings in about 350,000 people who help pump money into the local economy. The state receives about $6 million in tax revenue from the auto auction and Scottsdale gets about $2 million for auto auction activities.

When it comes to event-related jobs, Barrett-Jackson opens up around 1,500 employment opportunities for people looking for some extra work while also engaging those who work in tourism and hospitality.

“Phoenix is such a mecca for car collectors and hot rod enthusiasts,” Magers said. “The geography and the weather has to do with the popularity of collector cars. There’s a heavier concentration of people in Florida and Texas and Arizona and California who have collector cars because they get to enjoy them year-round. I was very excited to have been able to nail down that we’re coming back next year. I suspect it will be bigger and better.”

Nick Esquer

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