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Tampa blooms as Super Bowl looms

Nearly four years ago, the National Football League tapped Tampa to host the 2009 Super Bowl. Now the big game is just 34 days away and the first game-related event — a performance art installation of a massive steel football at a downtown park — happens in 13 days. Can you feel the excitement? Here's a look at where plans stand about a month before the Feb. 1 kickoff at Raymond James Stadium.

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Looking good

City workers have started putting plants along roadways to make Tampa look pretty for the 100,000 or so expected guests. The new flowers, trees and shrubs are going in everywhere from the airport to Ybor City.

Local businesses, hotels and restaurants will be showing their spirit, too. They've ordered about 500 official banners — some showing a sun-kissed giant football and the words "Believe in Now" — from the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee.

To the victor goes the silver

The Vince Lombardi Trophy, left, which goes to the Super Bowl victor, will be unveiled at Tiffany & Co. in International Plaza at an invitation-only breakfast event Jan. 24. Security guards will then whisk the trophy away and take it to the NFL Experience, an interactive theme park adjacent to the stadium. The public can view it there.

Long arm of the law

Nearly 1,000 officials from local, state and federal law enforcement and other agencies — including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture — will help with Super Bowl security. A command center has been set up in a building near downtown, and Tampa police will run a training exercise of their "e-sponder" communications system during Outback Bowl events this week.

Beyond the end zone

The Super Bowl brings with it not just a football game and star-studded parties. The NFL also organizes programs that focus on education, the environment and minority-owned businesses.

Already, eight fifth-grade classes from six Tampa Bay area counties are part of the "One World" program that connects kids from different cultural backgrounds. They have a pen-pal relationship that will culminate with a face-to-face meeting during Super Bowl week.

More than 100 area teachers have requested the "Super Learning in a Super City" curriculum that incorporates the game into subjects like history, geography and math. One lesson teaches kids how to make a bar graph using rushing stats.

A series of workshops expected to reach 900 small, minority- and women-owned businesses began in December. Two more workshops are set for January.

And this month, the planting of more than 1,000 trees began as part of the NFL's urban forestry program.

Mark your calendar

The calendar of events — which should hit nearly 200 — is filling out. It's peppered with the names of stars and athletes. Recently announced events include:

A concert featuring Rihanna, right, Fall Out Boy and Lifehouse at the Ford Amphitheatre on Jan. 29 that will air live on VH1.

A game-day party hosted by former NFL players Jerry Rice and Jesse Palmer.

A party hosted by super agent Leigh Steinberg (the inspiration for the movie Jerry Maguire) at Lowry Park Zoo on Jan. 31.

T-Pain's Thr33 Ring Circus at the Good Luck Cafe building in Ybor City, Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

Parties at the Museum of Science and Industry hosted by local boxer Antonio Tarver, hip-hop artist Nelly and others on Jan. 30 and 31.

A youth football game with teams coached by Snoop Dogg and Mike Alstott at Gaither High School on Jan. 31.

In the spotlight

At least 3,500 media types will descend on the area for the Super Bowl, with some networks setting up elaborate stages for live broadcasts. ESPN will set up two stages — one for radio, one for TV — in downtown Tampa. CNN plans to use the University of Tampa as a backdrop.

Fox's Best Damn Sports Show Period will broadcast from Centro Ybor from Jan. 27 through Jan. 30, using one of Tampa's streetcars as part of its set.

David Harvey, a spokesman for Centro Ybor, said the broadcast will be a boon for the complex. "It's huge," he said. "They say that the first day they expect probably 400 people. By the last day it's 1,500 to 2,000 people at the venue."

Nice (road) block

Expect a handful of road closures before and on game day.

On Jan. 9, the NFL will close Tampa Bay Boulevard between Himes Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway to make way for the NFL Experience theme park. And at midnight on Jan. 31, Dale Mabry and Himes will be closed from Tampa Bay Boulevard to accommodate a 300-foot security perimeter around the stadium on game day.

In Ybor City, part of Eighth Avenue will be closed from Jan. 27 to Jan. 30 for a live broadcast. Plans also call for closing Franklin Street in downtown Tampa between Harbour Island and downtown.

Tampa blooms as Super Bowl looms 12/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 11:30am]
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