On New Year's Day, 1960, Del Webb's latest project, Arizona's Sun City, opened to the public. The flagship of active adult communities was an instant success. It was the first retirement community of its kind and came to redefine the future of housing and retirement industries. The innovative idea of creating a community based entirely around the needs and desires of a particular group of people was a big gamble, but much to the delight of its creators and future residents alike, this gamble immediately paid off.
More than 100,000 people came to visit the property during its opening weekend. By the end of the first month, the company had sold all 400 of the homes scheduled to be built in the first year. A second phase consisting of 675 homes was quickly put together. The company had planned to sell 1,700 homes in its first three years of marketing Sun City. By the end of 1960, a total of 2,000 homes had been purchased.
Visitors to the original Sun City had never seen anything like it. The community was built around a centralized shopping and recreational district and amenities abounded. The layout and lifestyle provided by Sun City were creative and met the needs and wishes of its target resident. Records also reveal that many of the first weekend's buyers purchased more than one home at the same time. Others who bought homes the first weekend would go on to buy several more homes in Sun City, changing homes as the Webb Company changed model styles.
The overwhelming and surprising success of Sun City made national news. From newspapers and magazines to television broadcasts, and all the way to the cover of Time, Sun City was quickly on its way to becoming a legend. Although the attention from the press certainly reinforced the popularity of Sun City, the majority of the community's success is due to the praises of its residents.
Many of the buyers of Sun City properties are friends of current residents and these bonds of friendship helped to build the warm, tight-knit community whose character remains to this day. Known as the "City of Volunteers," Sun City remains unincorporated. In this town, citizens take part in all aspects of running the community—from maintaining the upkeep of streets, overseeing and administering the recreation centers and Homeowners Association, supporting the local law enforcement in achieving an impressively low crime rate, to raising the funds necessary to build their own healthcare facilities and providing volunteer services to help minimize expenses. Recreation, socializing, leisure activities, and community spirit are staples of life in Sun City. Citizens come together to organize entertainment and holiday celebrations.
These activities are just some of the many ways that citizens of Sun City enjoy their time with neighbors and friends. Nearly fifty years after its inception, the community boasts a population of almost forty thousand residents and the success of the original Sun City led to the creation of similar properties in California, Nevada, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Illinois. Although long-time residents of the original Sun City may tell you that not too much has changed in the community since the early days, it has grown considerably, become more organized and independent, and the community spirit has never been stronger.