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For many, Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl is unexpected ‘big win.’ Others remain skeptical.

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Members of Tampa’s political, business, media and activist communities weighed in Wednesday on the surprising news that Tampa will host the Super Bowl in February 2021.

The announcement was unexpected, particularly after the NFL snubbed a local bid last year to host the big game in either 2019, 2020 and 2021.

But major rainstorms in Southern California throughout the past year delayed construction of a new stadium for the L.A. Rams and Chargers, forcing the NFL to choose a new town for the 2o21 spectacle.

“The construction delays in L.A. are not uncommon for projects of their size, so it’s kind of lucky for us,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “But I think this is more than luck. We’ve done this before.”

Lopano was still working in Dallas when Tampa last hosted the Super Bowl in 2009.

In addition to being shut out last year, Tampa also lost out to Minneapolis, New Orleans and Indianapolis as one of three finalists in fall 2013 to bid for the following year’s Super Bowl.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said that unlike sports commissions, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission has always seen the value in bidding for major events even when it appears that other cities are going to win.

Hagan believes that philosophy allowed the city to be better positioned when the next opportunity to bid a major event occurs and that’s what led Tampa to get the chance to host the third national college football playoff championship this past January.

“We knew for sure that college football that Dallas was getting the first one,” he said, “but yet we put our best package forward, and although we didn’t get that one, we ended up getting the third, mainly because of the strong bid that we made on the initial game.”

“Most cities don’t do that,” Hagan added. “They don’t go through the effort.”

Tampa hosted four previous Super Bowls, but this is the first in 12 years. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik said the controversial Community Investment Tax that passed in 1996 for the $169 million to finance Raymond James Stadium had proved the test of time.

“Taxpayers are getting a good return on the investment that they decided to make 20 years ago,” he said.

They are still paying for it, however.

Last month, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced details of the third phase of over $150-million renovation project to Raymond James Stadium. Enhancements include an 18,700 square-foot home locker room — three times the size of the current one — more than 60,000 square feet of total lounge space in the West Stadium Club, 178 new 4K video monitors in the West Stadium Club and a 10,000 square-foot retail team shop to sell exclusive merchandise.

While the city will look dramatically different from when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, in 2021, it should look different from how it does now.

“You’re going to have, obviously, a lot more residential in the heart of the city,” Turanchik said. “It’ll be exciting to see what comes out of Channelside. St Petersburg is booming. We’ll have a water ferry system that connects some of these points together. It’ll be a very different place.”

Tampa attorney and 2016 County Commission candidate Brian Willis agrees that taxpayer investment, along with local leadership, is the reason Tampa is getting the game.

“With another big event, transit and bike and pedestrian safety will be keys for visitors and locals,” he says. “That’s why we should work right now to make sure all of our neighborhoods get a permanent boost by preparing for 2020 with leadership and real taxpayer investment focused on our neighborhoods.  This is another win for Tampa Bay. It will have a lasting impact if we use it as a catalyst to work together on the bigger picture.”

For East Tampa community activist Dianne Hart, the first thing going through her mind after reading Wednesday of the Super Bowl return to Tampa is how the African-American population will get an opportunity to take advantage of the economic impact coming to the region.

“I’m out in the community, and the community was not that happy the last time that we had a Super Bowl in our city,” she says of what happened in 2009. “A lot of people did not know how to get involved early enough. There’s opportunities for everybody to make money, so I just want to try to follow it a little closer this time to ensure that we have people in the right places.”

City Councilman Frank Reddick agrees with Hart, saying that while the jobs will only be short-term, he hopes that “this is an invitation for minorities to participate in the process and be rewarded with some jobs and opportunities that will bring in millions of dollars into this economy.”

La Gaceta editor and publisher Patrick Manteiga pointed out that there were definitely winners and losers economically who emerged from the 2012 Republican National Convention.

“There was a party atmosphere with the attendees of the RNC, but some parts of the city didn’t share in that partying,” he said.

Security concerns will undoubtedly be a primary concern, as they are at all major events held in the U.S.

Referring to this week’s terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena in England, Manteiga said: “You hope that things don’t devolve over the next few years to where hosting these things start to look like the RNC, where you’ve got empty blocks that surround the stadium because of security concerns.”

Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez remembers the security that permeated Tampa during the second Super Bowl held here in January of 1991, shortly after the Gulf War had begun, America’s first serious military intervention since the Vietnam War. “Sometimes I think these big events are the safest places you can be at, ” he said.

Tampa International Airport will look different in 2021. The current interior construction that has been going on over the past year will be done, with new restaurants and shops up and running. And the new rental car facility will be up and running (the entire master plan for the airport won’t be completed until 2026).

Food Not Bombs activist Dezeray Lyn was detained by Tampa Police for attempting to feed the homeless the weekend before last January’s NCAA college football championship.

Lyn called the event another “priority crisis for the city.”

“One being that in advance of these high-profile events, the city launches into erasure mode and enacts processes of city beautification which mean the issues of houselessness and hunger are invisibilized by displacement,” she said. “The second being that the city then profits multimillions and fund appropriation doesn’t divert in any meaningful way typically to programs that change or better the circumstances of those most struggling in our community. In short, the red carpet will roll out for tourists, while the impoverished community will either remain the same or be worse off for it.”

Former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said: “The direct economic value is probably a wash — but the branding & opportunity to promote our economic hubs — from Vinikville to Innovation Place & Westshore is invaluable. “

USF journalism professor Wayne Garcia called the Super Bowl an event for the “one percent,” but conceded that it’s fun and will bring the community together. But Garcia doesn’t want to hear about what an economic boom it will bring to the Tampa Bay area.

“True economic development comes from real investment: in targeted and supported public education, in infrastructure and in focusing on new industries to develop. A Super Bowl doesn’t help any of those things. This state and its lawmakers have consistently turned solely to tourism and real estate as the engines of our Florida economy,” he said.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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