Barbara Casey can well imagine what the person directing the Super Bowl host committee in New Orleans has been going through — long days and nonstop work, but fun work. Casey, 66, was executive director of the Tampa Super Bowl Task Force for Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 and Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Having started her career as an elementary school teacher, Casey served as public affairs director for the Tampa Hillsborough Convention & Visitors Association before joining the Tampa Sports Authority in 1993. There, she handled stadium issues ranging from melted ice cream to cremated loved ones to pink seats. Casey, who retired last week as spokeswoman for the Tampa Sports Authority, talked about her career with Tampa Bay Times staff writer Philip Morgan.
What is it like to coordinate the community response to a Super Bowl?
You know, there are a few things that you remember very easily: childbirth and labor. They say after it's over, you'll forget. Well, the pain dulls (smiling) . . .
There are so many stages at the beginning of it that you go through: getting the commitment from your community to agree to hold the hotel rooms, and keep the rates down, and then following up on that, because you do it so many years ahead of time. It's like a huge convention, the commitment has to come years in advance, eight years in advance . . . So to answer your question, what that person is going through is really making sure that the community is prepared for the world's eyes. Because it is the world.
What were some of the unusual requests?
The odd part were the community people who would say, "I have my garage and we can put an air mattress down there and people can rent it.'' And, you know, they were sweet; they just wanted to be involved and didn't think we had enough hotel rooms. In 1984, it was very much a corporate game, and people are coming with expense accounts and they want room service and they weren't going to stay there.
A lot of them were things that people wanted to make and have the NFL logo on, and lot of that is a very delicate conversation: "You can't do that. Not only can you not do that, but your product will be taken away, you won't be paid for it, and you may go to jail.'' So it's copyright infringement; I'd like to send that to NFL Properties rather than us doing it, but for a lot of people, that was back in the day of long-distance calls. You wanted to save them that time and effort, but you didn't want to be the bearer of bad tidings.
Was there a letdown after it was over?
Well, for a while, you really are buoyed by all the wonderful press that you had. I think the community, we all took such great pride in the hard work and the praise that we had from the NFL. To this day, my dearest note is from the NFL on how well we did. I treasure that, because, like labor, you have a child at the end that you can hug. You can't hug a note, but you can have a lot of memories.
What are some of the unusual stadium inquiries in your TSA role?
A lot of people don't understand that we trade out the grass as often as we do. Because, right now we have Monster Jam, the field is nothing but dirt. We change out because we've got college football, we've got soccer from time to time, we've got concerts.
There are also inquiries about bringing their father's ashes, because their father — or mother — was a big fan. And they'd like to bury them in the grass. Well, we can't do that.
. . . But the upside is people love to have their weddings here. They have their engagement photos made here, up on the ship. Bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, birthday parties . . . or bachelors parties. And we have people coming from MacDill all the time to (hold ceremonies when they) enlist, re-enlist, retire, you name it.
What are the complaints like?
Most of the complaints are if the home team loses. If the home team wins, there are fewer complaints. The beer is always too warm and the peanuts are stale, and it rained . . . Or my ice cream melted . . . My favorite was the person who said, "Oh, yeah, when I was buying my ticket for Monster Jam this year, I realized I didn't like it last year, so I want my money back.''
Other funny issues?
I think one of the lighter sides was our seats started fading. They were pink. So, nobody wanted pink seats. They sit the same. They're just as comfortable. It was not very attractive. And apparently somebody forgot to put the sunscreen in the paint when they were curing the paint that goes into forming the polyurethane or whatever it is. So all of them had to come out, the red ones. They had to be redone.
You don't want pink out there for your team's colors.
Not when you're pirates.
How did the issue come up?
We started noticing they were getting lighter and lighter and lighter, and the cup holders were pink. For a while they went through a fuchsia stage, and then went straight to pink.
What do you plan to do in retirement?
I'm going to see who works out at the gym when it's not 5 in the morning. I hear there are people actually working out after 5. Same thing, Publix; apparently, it's open sometime before 5 in the afternoon, or 6 or 7 or 8, whenever you leave.
Just kidding. I think that I'll challenge myself. My father was in the Air Force, so I lived in an impressionable time in Europe. I spoke fluent French in grade school; maybe I'll go back and learn French . . .
I'd love to go to the national parks, the aquariums and the zoos. I have a friend with an RV, and I just think that sounds really great. I read the joke by (cartoonist Bill Watterson's) Calvin and Hobbes, they said something like, "There's never enough time to do all the nothing that I want to do.''