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NCAA basketball fans cheer their time in Tampa

TAMPA — Chris Miles wondered what kind of entertainment Tampa would offer when he flew in last week for the NCAA Tournament.

Could he party like he had on other basketball trips that took him to Chicago's Miracle Mile or Bourbon Street in New Orleans?

Turns out he could, he said — on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City and at Channelside.

"We've had as much fun here as we've had anywhere," said Miles, 34, of Columbus, Ohio. "If basketball is back here, we'll be back."

Miles was among the thousands of tourists who flocked to the St. Pete Times Forum on Sunday for the final NCAA matchups of the weekend. But the city won't have much time to rest. The NCAA Women's Final Four comes to town April 6.

Take basketball out of the equation and many who visited Tampa for the first time also say they'll return.

"I love it here," said Angela Thompson, 25, of Calgary, Alberta. "It's so relaxing and the weather is great. I didn't like the rain, though."

Thompson had planned to spend Saturday sunbathing on Clearwater Beach. Because of the rain, she settled on tanning by her hotel pool between showers. "People say you wouldn't think to go to Tampa on holiday, but I would in a heartbeat," she said.

Ruth Rogers, 50, of Eddyville, Ky., had little else besides basketball on her mind. Her son, Ty Rogers, sank the winning 3-pointer in overtime Friday in Western Kentucky's win over No. 5 seed Drake.

"People have been nice," Ruth Rogers said. "Everything has just worked out perfect."

The Gosen sisters arrived at the Forum on Sunday decked out in blue and white to support their hometown team, the San Diego Toreros. Colleen, 18, and Katie, 20, finished each other's sentences as they tried to describe their trip.

"It's like going from one super spring break to the next super spring break," Colleen Gosen said.

Fellow Toreros fans Bryce Abraham, 20, of Hesperia, Calif., and Andy Wiens, 20, of San Diego couldn't keep the smiles off their faces as they recounted their Tampa adventures.

"We went to that city. What's it called?" a puzzled Abraham said as he gestured for help from his buddies.

"Ybor City," Wiens said.

"Yeahhh! Ybor," Abraham said. "It was a little sketchy. But it was fun."

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

NCAA basketball fans cheer their time in Tampa 03/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2008 9:52pm]
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