TAMPA — As thousands streamed into the NFL Experience just south of Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Don Yowick sat nearby on the tailgate of his dark-blue SUV and watched the money literally roll in.
A retired vice president of a pest-control company, Yowick and son-in-law Marc Valdes (the ex-major league, Florida Gators and Jesuit High pitcher) own a commercial lot at the corner of Douglas Street and Himes Avenue, roughly two Jeff Garcia spirals from the southeast corner of RJS.
They call it the Pirate's Den. And this week, that paved lot — occupied by a modest one-story building and enough parking for 32 vehicles — might be one of the bay area's most coveted pieces of inland real estate.
Throughout the NFL Experience — held Saturday and Sunday and set to re-open for three more days starting Thursday — Yowick will charge $10 for parking. But unlike a Bucs or USF football game, where his profit potential stops once the lot is filled, cars are exiting and entering all the time.
"You fill a lot up, it's 320 bucks," Yowick said. "And they leave and you might fill it up again. You might make 600 bucks. … This is a good week. And for all these (residents) around here, I'm glad it's happening."
For the $10 Yowick charges, parking patrons can tailgate and use the restroom inside the building (the rest is reserved for family and "special guests"). Throw in the vendor who has paid $5,000 up front to pitch his tent on the property, and Yowick and Valdes could make around $8,000 this week.
What will they do with it?
"All that money's going to go in the bank so we can pay our taxes, our insurance, our maintenance repair and maintain this place for another year," Yowick said.
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The search for Cardinals fans continues. Sunday at the NFL Experience we spotted jerseys of 14 different NFL teams before finding someone bearing Cards colors.
Before encountering a 30ish man in a replica No. 40 jersey of deceased Cardinal turned military hero Pat Tillman, we found Saints and Steelers, Bears and Bucs, Colts and Cowboys. Heck, we even spotted a dude in a retro Randall Cunningham Eagles jersey.
Other quirky sightings: A humongous Bucs team photo, where one can stand between, say, Ike Hilliard and Ronde Barber for picture purposes; a plaster replicate of the hands of Hall of Fame quarterbacks gripping the ball (Jim Kelly grips it high); and people standing 30-40 deep in line for the, uh, privilege of kicking, punting and passing an NFL ball.