Tampa area hopes win will raise profile
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 1:45 a.m.
TAMPA - The Tampa Bay area, used to rejection's sting, now basks in the glow of the Bucs' Super Bowl win.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers succeeded in bringing the nation's gaze to an area best known for its beaches and laid-back lifestyle, something local officials wanted to do in their unsuccessful attempts to woo the 2012 Olympics and 2004 GOP convention.
''Everyone is in great spirits, everyone is sky high,'' said Steve Hayes, spokesman for the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitor's Bureau. ''It's like a dream come true. And for a year, no one's ever going to be able to take that away from you.''
Tampa isn't as internationally well known as glitzy Miami or theme-park saturated Orlando, but officials hope the Super Bowl will elevate the area's national profile.
The Bucs not only give the city a championship sports team, they brought exposure to an international audience. Nearly 140 million TV viewers around the world watched the game.
The Convention & Visitor's Bureau already is capturing the value of the Super Bowl in its marketing. Hayes said the organization has sent a nationwide news release to travel and sports editors, in which it notes the Super Bowl win, as well as the fact that Tampa hosted the Super Bowl in 2001. He said the release also highlights new things about the area, such as a streetcar from downtown Tampa to historic Ybor City.
''We do this as a way to highlight the destination'' and hopefully spawn post-Super Bowl press about the area, he said.
Officials also point to the other things the Tampa Bay area has going for it, including Busch Gardens theme park, museums in St. Petersburg and the Greek culture center of Tarpon Springs. In addition to increased tourism, local officials hope businesses consider the three-county area of about 2 million people.
''Companies in the past that may have given us a glancing look may give us a harder look now,'' said Kim Scheeler, president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
And if a city ever felt it deserved the joy of a successful football team, it's Tampa. For many years, it felt the shame of its poorly performing professional teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in baseball, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and the Bucs', with its notorious 0-26 start in the team's first two seasons in 1976 and 1977. This season, Bucs' tickets had real value, and games were packed with true Bucs' fans, not the Florida transplants who showed up to root for the teams of their home states.
The question is, does football alone make a city? Tampa leaders say no - the city already has a desirable quality of life and the Bucs' win just gives them a lot of publicity.
And in turn, they'd like to see that publicity draw money-spending tourists to the area.
According to 2001 numbers from each city's convention and visitor's bureaus, Orlando had 23 million overnight visitors, Miami had 10.5 million, and Tampa had 4.8 million, though that doesn't include day-trippers that make the short drive between Tampa and Orlando.
''When you look at the type of publicity that the Tampa area got for the Super Bowl, it was very event oriented,'' said Tom Flanigan, spokesman for Visit Florida, the state's tourism promotion agency. ''The Super Bowl is over and even though the area got an awful lot of mileage as far as name recognition, the question is how can you leverage that, getting beyond the stadium.''
Zane DeHerrera, vice president of marketing at MGA Communications in Denver, said that a successful sports team contributes to economic development within a city, and the international attention from the Super Bowl increases a city's outside recognition even more.
''Merchandising alone will send tremendous name recognition,'' DeHerrera said. ''You'll see more kids wearing Warren Sapp jerseys and (Brad) Johnson jerseys. That's building name recognition for life. People like winners and like being associated with winners.''
Cities that benefited from their professional team include Anaheim, where the Angles won a World Series title. That win had a $35 million impact on the city from increased tourism, said Elaine Cali, spokeswoman for the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.
''People around the world know of Anaheim that didn't know about it before,'' she said. ''It put it on the map for a lot of people.''
Other Florida cities, such as Orlando and Miami, may have higher international profiles, but Tampa area officials say they are competing on a different level.
''I think Tampa as a whole, if you look at the people who live here and work here, are more proud of it than anyone else,'' Hayes said.
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