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City gussies up for Super Bowl

Workers plant grass, trees and shrubs to beautify sites around town at an estimated cost of $350,000.

The world is coming to Tampa's living room next month. Take out the good china.

Bracing for the expected crush of more than 100,000 visitors for Super Bowl XXXV, the city has been quietly sprucing up areas likely to attract big crowds.

Flowers, trees and other vegetation are being planted on S Franklin Street from Whiting Street to Harbour Island, as well as around the downtown convention center. The road along Channelside is getting fresh oaks.

Workers are seeding winter rye grass, a cold-resistant grass that germinates quickly, along Bayshore Boulevard, the site of the Gasparilla Parade, and on Spruce Street from the airport to Dale Mabry Highway. Volunteers recently re-landscaped the medians around Raymond James Stadium.

The city's director of parks, Ross Ferlita, estimated the efforts under way will cost about $350,000. He said the city had planned on making the improvements regardless of the Super Bowl, but the game hastened the work. "They were on our list anyway, but we speeded it up," he said, adding it otherwise might have taken another year to get the projects done.

Along with the armies of football fans, "You have probably several thousand reporters here in town" for the game, Ferlita said. "We want the city to have its best foot forward. We just want to make sure that visually everyone has a good experience."

During the Super Bowl, he said, "Our city will be looked at. They stay in Tampa. They stay in St. Pete. They're going to get as close to Tampa as they can. We have a hundred thousand visitors here, and that's why all the hotels are booked."

Vince Pardo, president of the Ybor City Development Corp., said the city's "YES team" (short for Ybor Environmental Services), has been working on a cleanup project that includes litter pickup, sidewalk cleaning and debris cleanup. It was not done with the Super Bowl in mind, but will be completed in time for the game, he said.

"We've done a lot of sprucing-up projects," Pardo said.

Pardo said he hopes a mural that features the facade of a building, to be installed near the Ovo Cafe on Seventh Avenue, will be up by the game.

Pardo described these efforts as "things that we've had on our radar screen for some time, and with the Super Bowl here we were able to push and get some additional funding from the City Council to get some of these things done."

The beautification comes amid other efforts to prepare for the game, including the temporary waiving of daytime parking meter fees in Ybor and the creation of a "Clean Zone" around the stadium that restricts merchants.

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco described the beautification effort as modest, however.

"I've never been a big believer in planting trees for Super Bowl," he said, adding the city routinely plants 1,000 trees a year. "We should stay clean and neat for ourselves because we're here all the time."

"People know where Tampa is now," Greco said. "When the big events come around, we should look good anyway."

Naturally, Greco said, people want the city to look its best. "It's like you have company," he said. "I just hope we have good weather."

Last week, the Super Bowl XXXV Task Force unveiled a promotional campaign that includes newspaper ads, television and radio spots and billboards. The goal is to encourage people in Tampa Bay to be "warm and friendly" to visitors.

The signature image is a football with laces curving up in the shape of a smile; the motto is "Tampa Bay's Got Game. Let It Show."