Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Understanding Sun City, Arizona

I've always been fascinated by Sun City. I live on the border of Glendale and Peoria, so Sun City is right nearby, but in so many ways it's a million miles away.

The opening of Sun City, January 1, 1960

If you're not familiar with Sun City, it's a retirement community. It's been there since 1960, and has grown as Sun City West, Sun City Festival, etc. And like any homogeneous community, it gives comfort to the people who live there, and fit in, and makes outsiders feel very unwelcome.

1960s billboard for Sun City

Anytime I look at a community, I try to come away with what works, and what doesn't. I have to admit that being inside of a homogeneous community, whether it's people of your own age, or your own race, or your own nationality, has to give a certain level of comfort. Behavior that might raise eyebrows elsewhere, such as driving a golf cart on the street, is accepted in Sun City without a second thought. And there really is a small-town feeling in Sun City. People know their neighbors. They know who should, and shouldn't, be there.

1920 article about Marinette

The original Sun City, which is south of Grand Avenue at 107th Avenue, was built where the ghost town of Marinette was. It's not part of the Salt River Valley, and it relies on groundwater, not the water from the Salt River. Marinette was an agricultural area, where the Goodyear Company grew cotton. If you take a look at a satellite view, you will see that it lies in a massive floodplain, which is good for the aquifers, but serious flooding has never been a problem for Sun City. If pumping groundwater ever becomes a problem for the Sun City area (and it shouldn't, as municipal water use is minuscule compared to agriculture), they can just tap into the Central Arizona Project Canal, which is conveniently located nearby, and has been since the 1980s.

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