Recession or not, this weekend's big game should mean big gains for Tampa business owners.
But will the Super Bowl XLIII wealth creep north of the Hillsborough County line? It depends on whom you ask.
Big name Pasco County resorts like Saddlebrook and Caliente are expected to fill up, while the chain hotels along Interstate 75, — they anticipated their close proximity to the Shops at Wiregrass and the Grove at Wesley Chapel would mean a full house — are hoping for a surge of last-minute reservations.
"We were very excited," said Nootan Patel, manager and owner of the Comfort Inn near the Grove. "But there's nothing to be seen yet."
The hotel took out ads especially for the Super Bowl and even offered guests complimentary shuttle rides from Wesley Chapel to Ybor City.
But it's looking at only 30 percent occupancy this weekend. The average for this time of year is usually closer to 90 percent, Patel said.
The shuttles were axed.
"Maybe people thought we were too far from the stadium," Patel said.
Her neighbors at the Sleep Inn are seeing better numbers. The hotel was about 60 percent booked earlier this week. About half of those bookings came in last weekend.
Across the county, the year-old Residence Inn Northpointe, next to the Suncoast Parkway, is "just shy" of being completely sold out, said Lorraine Fernandez, director of sales.
The Super Bowl's last visit to Tampa was in 2001. That January brought in slightly higher than average tourist tax revenue for the county, but the following month was the second highest February on record since the county started collecting such data in 1991, said Eric Keaton, Pasco's public communication officer.
"I don't think we can directly say that was related to the Super Bowl," Keaton said. "The worst you can say is it's a pretty good coincidence."
The county will not receive numbers on the economic impact of this year's Super Bowl until late March, but some people are already making predictions.
Better bottom lines
Greg Lenners, manager at Wiregrass, thinks football revelers will boost mall revenue by about 10 percent, though the lines will be much shorter Sunday evening.
"We are realistic that everyone is going to rush home to their TVs at 5 o'clock," Lenners said.
Organizers at Caliente, a clothing optional resort in Land O'Lakes, predict they will see a 50 to 75 percent increase in income this weekend thanks to a host of parties and celebrity appearances.
The pierced and cross-dressing Dennis Rodman is scheduled to stop by. So is Robert Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy, a skivvy clad guitarist who serenades crowds in New York City. Former Buccaneer Chidi Ahanotu will also make an appearance.
Rumors fly that Janet Jackson will party it up in Tampa this weekend, but Caliente may be more her speed.
"If you have a wardrobe malfunction (here,) it's not a problem," said Angye Fox, Caliente spokesperson.
The clothing optional resort was to be the site of the Lingerie Bowl, a full contact football game played by barely dressed women, but that was nixed earlier this week.
A Lingerie Football League spokesperson told the Times that holding and broadcasting the game in the nude or around nude people was not what the players or league had in mind.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 435-7312.