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Why Pinellas County is spending $1 million for a Super Bowl in Tampa

Margie Manning

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Photo credit: City of Tampa

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners approved a $1 million tourism promotion agreement with the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee, with an expectation that the county’s beaches, museums and parks will be in the national spotlight when the big game is played in Tampa in February.

Commissioners approved the agreement after being assured that there will be benefits for Pinellas County, even if attendance is reduced because of restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Super Bowl LV is scheduled for Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium. It’s the first time in 12 years the game has been played in Tampa and comes amid a pandemic that has led to 1,953 deaths and more than 105,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

The National Football League, working with the stadium and local public health officials, will continue to monitor the data to determine what capacity will be at the stadium, Rob Higgins, executive director of the Host Committee, told commissioners. Higgins said he’s encouraged that the growing number of NFL teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are allowing more fans at their games, but he can’t yet pinpoint an economic benefit.

“We are continuing to see some hotel bookings. We know once the teams qualify that they will bring fans as part of it as well. So from an economic impact standpoint we’re going to continue to monitor it and try to maximize as best as possible,” Higgins said.

He said he is totally confident in the social impact and marketing exposure impact.

A program called Forever 55, a joint investment of the NFL and local community partners, is focusing on programs that end system injustice, as well as early childhood education, food insecurity, underserved families, health and wellness, and sustainability.

“For example, today we unveiled 55 breakfast carts going in 55 different schools,” Higgins said at Tuesday’s Pinellas County board meeting. “One in four kids are hungry in school each day and of those 55 carts, 20 of them are located here in Pinellas County, with the remainder in Hillsborough and Pasco.”

 

From a marketing exposure standpoint, the Super Bowl is the world’s biggest event from a single-day perspective, Higgins said.

“We’ve forged relationships with the broadcast networks. There’s a lot of media that will be coming. We’ve created this fantastic partnership with Visit St. Pete Clearwater to leverage the marketing exposure to make sure that our hometown shines on the biggest and brightest of stages,” Higgins said.

Commissioner Dave Eggers, the board’s vice chairman, asked if Pinellas would get as much exposure as Hillsborough County, which is contributing $5 million to the Host Committee.

“Pinellas County has a story to be told as well. What concerns me is where we end up falling in that big equation,” Eggers said. “If we’re going to get people back here, it’s going to be because of all the assets we have here. A lot of them are our beaches, our parks, the different museums that we have here … There’s a complete story to tell and that’s what I hope we see.”

The Super Bowl would not be coming to the Tampa Bay area without Pinellas County, Higgins said.

“We don’t have the hotel product to do it without Pinellas. We don’t have the amenities to do it. We don’t have event venues and we don’t have the people. There’s a ton of Pinellas folks involved as part of our community ambassador program. There’s a ton of businesses that are Pinellas businesses, and part of our Business Connect initiative, which is minority-owned, female-owned, LGBT-owned and veteran-owned business that we’re playing matchmaker with the NFL to help with contract opportunities,” Higgins said.

The $1 million in Pinellas funding will come from the county’s tourist development tax fund or the “bed tax” — a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months. It will be paid in two installments of $500,000 each. One payment was due Dec. 15 and the other will be due Feb. 8.

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