“Champa Bay” has a nice ring to it. Or “Title Town,” perhaps, if you’re more of a traditionalist.
Whatever you call it, the Tampa Bay region has yet another sports championship to celebrate as Tom Brady and a stingy defense led the Buccaneers to a 31-9 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday.
Even before becoming the first NFL team to play in and then win a Super Bowl at its home stadium, the Bucs made history as they notched three consecutive playoff wins on the road to reach the biggest of big games — a feat that had been previously accomplished just four times in NFL history. Not only did the Bucs take down a resurgent Washington Football Team, they also bested their archrival New Orleans Saints and then the heavily favored Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl LV.
The win bookmarks a run of success for the ages for Tampa Bay sports. Starting last fall, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, the Rowdies were named co-champions of the United Soccer League’s pandemic-shortened playoffs and the Tampa Bay Rays advanced to the World Series, though they fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
Not since Detroit in 1935-36 have one city’s professional sports teams been so dominant in such a short period of time. Back then, in a span of about six months, the Tigers won the World Series, the Lions won the pre-Super Bowl NFL championship game and the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.
Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tampa Bay was already on a roll prior to the sporting glory of the past few months. Good weather, a diversified economy, low cost of living and other positive attributes have burnished the region’s reputation and made it a prime destination for both businesses and individuals who want to escape cold, high-tax northeast states.
“Having the Rays, Rowdies, Lightning and now the Bucs on a national stage, a global stage, really says a lot about what’s going on in our region,” said J.P DuBuque, president and CEO of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. “My hope is that folks outside of the region take away the good things that they see, that they take those sports teams as examples of what our community is like — that there is a sense of great culture, teamwork and collaboration. The teams are just an example of what our community is all about.”
Although the direct economic benefits of the Super Bowl might be lessened because of the pandemic, DuBuque said there’s really no substitute for the kind of marketing and exposure brought about by the unique confluence of the region’s four sports teams all competing for championships.
“When you think about the impact of Covid-restricted games,” DuBuque said, “really it’s only limited the people in the stands, so to speak. If you were even a marginal sports fan, you know what’s happening now [in Tampa Bay]. Folks around the country are noticing that there’s something special going on in our community right now.
“And we’ll be really successful if that notice of what’s going on leads to investigation and exploration, and that exploration leads to investment. That’s what I’m hoping for … we can use this as an opportunity to showcase our community and get folks interested and knowledgeable about what’s going on here.”
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater President and CEO Steve Hayes, meanwhile, said it’s hard to exactly quantify the marketing value of Tampa Bay sports teams’ unprecedented run of excellence, but the pre-Super Bowl interviews he did with out-of-market print and broadcast media outlets were “phenomenal” in terms of generating interest in the region. “They’re all asking about the things you can do,” Hayes said. Several radio stations from other parts of Florida aired segments about how to plan a Tampa/St. Pete vacation, the best times of year to visit and other vital information for potential tourists.
“ESPN did their broadcasts from St. Pete Beach,” Hayes said. “They kept showing that view and I kept looking out and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, it looks incredible.’”
Hayes expects many positive after-effects to follow the Bucs’ win. Tampa Bay will now be known for its winning culture as focus turns to the Lightning gearing up for another run at the Stanley Cup and the Rays prepping for the start of a new season in which they won’t necessarily occupy their traditional role as scrappy underdogs. The Rowdies, too, will soon prepare to take the field again as reigning champions.
“You start the cycle all over again,” Hayes said. “It sets the stage for [asking], ‘What else can we win at?’”