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What's new and improved in Tampa since 2001

Notice anything new? We do.

Since the last Super Bowl hosted here in 2001, Tampa has sprouted quite a few new features worth mentioning. Here are some of them:

You just missed the debut of International Plaza, whose Sept. 17, 2001, grand opening was rescheduled because of the tragic events of 9/11. The 1.26-million-square-foot shopping center is a retail and nightlife hot spot.

Busch Gardens' fast, smooth SheiKra roller coaster took off in 2005 and then went floorless in 2007. Who knows what condition it'll be in next time you visit!

Lowry Park Zoo has grown — big time. Since last Super Bowl, it's added a manatee amphitheater, Stingray Bay, the Australian-themed Wallaroo Station, meerkats and penguins. Its biggest expansion was the Safari Africa exhibit in 2004, home to elephants, giraffes, zebras and rhinos. One of the newest features, the Gator Falls log flume ride, was added last year.

Notice the more scenic view of Tampa upon leaving the airport? New ramps have been added to connect drivers to Interstate 275.

Here's a new term for you: GaYbor, noun, the hip west end of Ybor City, launched as a gay-friendly business district in 2007, complete with gay-owned restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques and an art gallery.

Known as "malfunction junction," the interchange between Interstates 275 and 4, just north of downtown, has gotten a facelift.

Channelside, the retail and entertainment complex facing the Garrison Channel, opened in 2001. But the Hooters girls didn't enter the scene until 2003.

The historic yellow streetcar rolled out once again in 2002, for the first time since 1946. Our line runs a 2.4-mile section, connecting downtown, Channelside and Ybor.

And don't forget these:

People actually live downtown now not as many as we'd like to see, but we're enjoying the fuller-looking skyline with all our new condo towers.

New SunPass lanes over the Crosstown Expressway debuted with much fanfare in 2006. Now, you can sail from the east Hillsborough 'burbs into downtown Tampa in mere minutes.

Just two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay History Center opened the doors to its $52-million, 60,000-square-foot green-built facility overlooking the Garrison Channel. It's a museum two decades in the making.

Last Super Bowl, Ybor City's main drag, Seventh Avenue, was closed off to drive-through traffic at night, as it had been for years. But the block party feel got too rowdy for business owners and police, so in 2005, the street reopened once again.

A few months ago, Tampa got a downtown open-air Friday farmers market, offering locally produced fruits, veggies and gourmet eats. Soon, we could see it expand to Sundays.

The Ford Amphitheatre experienced a baptism by Earth, Wind and Fire in its 2004 grand debut. That summer, its state-of-the-art sound system, 9,500 seats and shenanigans-prone lawn drew such blockbuster acts as the Cure, Dave Matthews Band and Kiss.

The site of Fort Brooke, the core of the U.S. military installation during 19th century wars against the Seminole Indians, was dedicated as Cotanchobee Park, a 4-acre downtown waterfront park memorializing the fallen natives. The name means "where the big water meets the land."

Notice the lights dancing on the Convention Center and the Fort Brooke garage? In January, artists flipped the switch on Lights on Tampa, a monthlong public art celebration that originated in 2006.

Finally, a cheap plug alert: Have you read tbt* yet? It's hard to miss the fun, flashy, free Times tabloid found just about everywhere in Tampa since 2004.

What's new and improved in Tampa since 2001 01/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 10:02am]
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