A white tent has risen in front of Buffalo Wild Wings in Brandon. Hooters is waiting for the arrival of the calendar girls, and the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe is teeming with parties and football players.
Clearly, a lot of people are betting the impact of Super Bowl XLIII will ripple from Tampa all the way to Brandon and eastern Hillsborough County.
It may not seem like a stretch to outsiders, but those of us who have lived here through previous Super Bowls know that the pomp, circumstance and parties have seldom extended across those short 13 miles. There will probably be more east Hillsborough County residents at Super Wal-Mart on Saturday night than at the Maxim Party.
Maybe this year, however, things will be a little different.
The folks at Buffalo Wild Wings certainly believe they're going to get their share of fans. Bands started playing in the 40- by 40-foot tent Thursday night, and performances run through Sunday night. Massage Envy will have its chairs out to get that kink out of your shoulder, and radio stations will broadcast live today.
"There are a lot of hotels in Brandon and I think some people want to capitalize on that," said Mark Ansley, the franchisee for the wing restaurant on Badlands Drive near Westfield Brandon mall. "We didn't really know about any other parties going on out here, and we want people to see Brandon is a good place to be."
Over at Hooters, the calendar girl models arrive tonight at 7 for a signing as part of a
Super Bowl-related tour of the area's restaurants. Like Wild Wings, it also has big plans for Saturday night's Ultimate Fighting Championship broadcast and, of course, the Super Bowl on Sunday.
So will the restaurants be playing host to locals or folks from across the nation? If the hotel business is any indication, there's a pretty good chance of drawing some Super Bowl fans. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, the Crowne Plaza and the Residence Inn at Sabal Park and Little Harbor in Ruskin are all part of the official hotel block for the game.
Other area hotels are expected to be packed through Sunday. Jeff Antonaccio, the general manager at the Embassy Suites in Brandon, said the hotel is sold out Thursday through Sunday.
Hotel guests could bring added business for restaurants, but Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee executive director Reid Sigmon opted not to hype the impact.
"It's a co-centric model beginning with Tampa," Sigmon said. "I think some of the fan housing is going to start to move out that way, and hopefully some of the restaurants will get some of the benefits."
Okay, so we've got hotel guests and we've got restaurant specials. But do we have glitz and glamor? Well, sort of.
On Saturday, former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly appears at MiraBay in Apollo Beach for a brunch from 10 a.m. to noon. Kelly will offer insight into the game and sign autographs. Proceeds for the fundraiser go to Hunter's Hope Research Foundation. The Kelly family started the foundation when they lost their 8-year-old son, Hunter, to Krabbe disease in 2005.
So, it's not the P. Diddy extravaganza, but it's for a good cause and Kelly has always come across as a nice guy.
Of course, if the party doesn't come to you, you can always go to the party. Tampa is close enough to catch some of the festivities, and an estimated 200 volunteers from eastern Hillsborough County are working various events.
So get a designated driver, find a well-connected friend and gain entry into one of these lavish parties. Or just go to any old watering hole and soak up the atmosphere. Revelry like this should not be missed.
That's all I'm saying.
Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at [email protected] or (813) 226-3406.