Peoria is a city in the U.S. state of Arizona, located in Maricopa and partly Yavapai counties. This major suburb of Phoenix has 154,065 residents (2010 Census) and it is the sixth-largest city in the state by land area and the ninth-largest by population. It was named after Peoria in Illinois, but it is today much larger than its namesake. Peoria is famous for being the spring training home for the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. In 2008 it was featured on Money magazine’s list of “Top 100 Places to Live.”
Early settlers in the Salt River Valley had many problems with flooding, combined with periods of severe drought. Because of that, the area was devoid of any real and permanent settlement for a long while. In 1868 a group of people was organized to build an irrigation ditch through the valley. When the project was over, these problems no longer posed a serious threat and an actual settlement was on its way.
By 1872 there were miles of cultivated land and a new, thriving community along the Salt River. New canals were constructed and then it became clear that the same thing can be done with rich desert land higher up the slopes of the valley. The Arizona Canal Company was set up for that purpose and it soon reclaimed and adapted larger tracts of land, including a section where Peoria is now located. One of the engineers, who was from Peoria, Illinois, got a large tract of land from his contract and went back to Illinois to persuade people to move to the new community he would establish in Arizona.
Peoria was then an isolated community 14 miles away from Phoenix. The new town was officially established and registered with Maricopa County in 1897. Railroad arrived to Peoria around that time, guaranteeing further growth.
During the first decades of the 20th century Peoria was establishing itself as a true commercial, agricultural and residential center. However, a great fire broke out in 1917, basically wiping out the town. It was clear that Peoria needed sturdier and more resilient structures. Fortunately, America had just entered World War I and the prices of agricultural products were high. Local farmers took advantage of these wartime conditions and Peoria managed to rebuild rather quickly.
Early 1950s were a period of great growth throughout the Valley. The presence of Luke Air Force Base and mass production of air conditioning systems spurred a great increase in the population of Peoria, which was incorporated as a city in 1954. It continued to grow, with a 300% increase in population between 1980 and 1990. In order to support its residents and the local economy, the city focused on commercial and industrial development. Peoria also invested heavily in its sports complex and starting from the 1970s started hosting spring trainings for professional sports teams. The Peoria Sports Complex also hosts major concert events, conventions, business events and festivals, bueling the hospitality sector in the area.
Peoria today occupies an area of 141,7 square miles, extending into Yavapai County from its original location within Maricopa County. The Agua Fria River and New River flow through the city, although the former is usually dry as the New Waddell Dam holds back Lake Pleasant. The New River is also usually dry due to New River Dam. Northern portion of the city contains several hills and mountains, most notably Sunrise Mountain, West Wing Mountain, East Wing Mountain, Calderwood Butte, White Peak and Twin Buttes.
Like Phoenix, Peoria has a subtropical arid climate. Summers are extremely hot and dry and winters are warm and pleasant.
At the 2010, Peoria had 154,065 residents, which is a 42.2% increase compared to 2000. The racial makeup in the city is 84.95% White, 2.78% Black or African American, 0.68% Native American, 1.92% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 7.09% some other race and 2.48% two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos are 15.4% of the population.
In 2000, the median household income was $52,199 and the per capita income for the city was $22,726.
The city has a number of historical structures, such as Peoria Presbyterian Church, Edwards Hotel, Peoria Central School, Peoria Jailhouse, Wilhelm Automotive, Mabel Hood Building and Palo Verde Park. Other places of interest in the city area include Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, Lake Carl Pleasant, Town Hall, Challenger Space Museum, Peoria Arizona Historical Society, Polar Ice Amusement Park and Rollerplex.