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Tampa likely won't cash in on Series

TAMPA — The Rays may have Tampa Bay attached to their name, but the spoils of the team's league victory and World Series berth belong largely to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, say Tampa hotel, restaurant and tourism officials.

Sportscasters and crew members from Fox, the network broadcasting the World Series, have booked nearly 100 rooms at the InterContinental Hotel in Tampa's West Shore area.

And Major League Baseball officials booked dinner one night this week at Bern's Steakhouse.

In general, though, the series won't be a boon on the level of the Super Bowl, where 100,000 people are expected to flock to the Bay area and party for days before a kickoff at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 1.

Heather Sherer-Berkoff, spokeswoman for Bern's, says the restaurant already is booked almost solid for the week before the Super Bowl.

So far, though, it's business as usual at Bern's, with the first game of the World Series just a day away.

"We're in South Tampa. The Trop is over in St. Pete," she said. "We open at 5. If you're going to the game you're going to go to the bar and have a steak sandwich and leave. It's too far, I think, with traffic."

Kristen Muia, sales manager at the Palm Restaurant, said one group and its out-of-town speaker actually canceled Wednesday lunch plans because of the World Series.

Apparently the financial services group also had an evening event planned at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and figured traffic would be difficult to navigate. So they canceled the entire day of activities.

Thom Stork, president of the Florida Aquarium, said even during the Super Bowl, the biggest impact on his attraction comes from corporate parties that are planned well in advance, not a boost in attendance.

The aquarium did see a bump at the turnstile when the St. Pete Times Forum hosted the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 and this year during the NCAA women's Final Four.

"They were played three doors down, and there were people in downtown," Stork said. "If people travel for the World Series, I tend to think that they might stay in St. Petersburg."

Stork, though, is banking on positive public relations.

"I'm hoping on the worldwide broadcast there will be a mention that the Florida Aquarium has a ray tank in the middle of the field," he said. "We built it, and we operate it."

Steve Hayes, executive vice president for Tampa Bay and Company, Hillsborough County's convention and visitors bureau, said he is hoping Fox will include scenes of Tampa during its broadcast.

"The greatest thing is going to be the visibility," Hayes said. "Our challenge is going to be to get things in front of them."

And just having the Rays play in the World Series also provides another notch in the Tampa Bay area's sporting success belt, along with the Bucs winning the Super Bowl and the Lightning taking the Stanley Cup.

Those are valuable marketing tools, he said.

"It kind of reinforces that sports mystique that we have here," he said. "It gives one additional thing someone wanting to come here can do."

Tampa likely won't cash in on Series 10/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 2:55pm]
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