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Ybor City loves the added business brought by the Super Bowl

TAMPA — Carrie West and Fred Schwartz are standing in MC Film Festival, a gay gift shop and video store in Ybor City, contemplating the impact of the Super Bowl on the struggling entertainment district.

On the one hand, West, owner of MC Film, says his store — down the street from the set for Fox Sport's Best Damn Sports Show Period has become the spot where crew members buy sodas and water.

On the other hand, both men will have to find another place to park their cars when they lose spaces to the crews and VIPs attending the Maxim party at the Ritz Theater nearby.

"We have to walk a little bit," Schwartz said. "But I don't mind walking to the bank."

Forget the "recession Super Bowl." Sure, ticket prices are dropping, parties are being canceled and direct spending in Tampa will be less than what it would have been in a vibrant economy. But business and property owners in Ybor City say the big game is providing a huge shot in the arm.

Schwartz is leasing land he owns in Ybor for overflow parking, and leasing part of a building he is renovating to a company selling tickets to the game and parties.

He said he'll make $9,000 this month he otherwise wouldn't have made.

Super Bowl merchandisers are leasing space on Seventh Avenue at 17th Street that has sat vacant for years. The temporary shop will remain in place after the Super Bowl to take advantage of the crowds expected in Ybor during Gasparilla parades the two following weekends.

"The rent that we get off that building won't cover the real estate taxes that we pay for 2009," said Jim Jacob, the leasing agent for the building.

On other hand, "something is better than nothing," Jacob said.

Brad Cooper is leasing half of his art gallery to the same sellers. "I wish it was a big international art event going on here," he said.

But he said the month of rental income will make this January look much better than last January.

Beyond the money, there's also the benefit of getting the word out nationwide about Ybor City, says Chris O'Rourke, spokeswoman for the owners of Centro Ybor, a retail and entertainment complex.

For two weeks, the Best Damn Sports Show has been recruiting visitors to its set by suggesting TV viewers go to centroybor.com. O'Rourke said it added 15,000 Web hits to the site's weekly traffic. And on Thursday, the Today Show began broadcasting from Centro Ybor.

Franja Easterling, owner of the Rock-N-Sports Bar & Grille that opened in Centro Ybor in 2005, said she hopes all the publicity and visitors will help put her restaurant on the map.

She's set to host three private parties this week, including a VIP event for Fox Sports executives with a guest list that included Rays players Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.

"For me," she said. "It's going to be the best week we've had since we opened."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Ybor City loves the added business brought by the Super Bowl 01/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 7:33pm]
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