Dear Readers,

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption to the lives of everyone in Tampa Bay and to so many businesses in our community. Here at the Tampa Bay Times, we continue to provide free, up-to-date information at as a public service. But we need your help. Please consider supporting us by subscribing or donating, and by sharing our work. Thank you.

  1. News
  2. /
  3. Business

Super Bowl host committee looks ahead to an event 'unlike any other’

The Tampa Bay area has changed a lot since it last hosted the championship game in 2009.
Former Buccaneer and co-chair of the Super Bowl LV Host Committee Derrick Brooks, left, shakes hands with Rob Higgins, right, president and CEO of the Super Bowl LV Host Committee, during Wednesday's news conference at Raymond James Stadium. [Times]

TAMPA — Organizers stopped just short Wednesday of calling Super Bowl LV the Derrick Brooks Super Bowl, because No. 55 is co-chairing the local host committee.

That, however, is just one way the 2021 game will be different from Tampa’s four previous Super Bowls in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.

Take the Riverwalk.

“The water is the backbone to our overall experience,” Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee president and chief executive officer Rob Higgins said during a kickoff event at Raymond James Stadium. “From the Riverwalk to Water Street Tampa, Super Bowl LV in February 2021 is going to be unlike any other."

That’s a happy lesson organizers took from the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2017, two years after the Riverwalk was complete.

For the first time, the 2.5-mile walkway allowed organizers to plan championship-related events at a string of waterfront venues — Curtis Hixon and Julian B. Lane parks, the Armature Works food hall, Ulele restaurant, the Tampa Convention Center and the Marriott Water Street — so that fans could walk from one to the other. Along the way, pop-up stages featured live music and vendors offered everything from craft beer to artisanal ice pops.

“We have such a great setup now in downtown,” Higgins said. “Both locals and visitors alike can create Super Bowl memories by going to one program in the morning, and then walking the Riverwalk and going to another great Super Bowl event in the afternoon and then another one in the evening.”

RELATED: As envisioned, Tampa’s Riverwalk is center of activity for College Football Playoff festivities

Another difference: The bay area has grown a lot since early 2009 during the Great Recession.

“Look at all the development that’s going on,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. “We’re creating entire communities. … It’ll be a completely different city when they come back.”

The $3 billion Water Street Tampa development didn’t exist in 2009. But 17 months from now it will feature a new high-end JW Marriott and the renovated Marriott Water Street hotel (formerly the Tampa Marriott Waterside) to serve as the NFL’s headquarters hotels.

About 2 miles south of Raymond James Stadium, the $550 million Midtown Tampa is projected to be ready by the Super Bowl to offer its own mix of new hotel space, entertainment, restaurants and shopping.

And farther east, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa will have 564 new hotel rooms online, plus a lot of other new entertainment spaces created by a $720 million expansion scheduled to be complete next month.

RELATED: How Tampa Bay is getting ready to host the Super Bowl again

In 2009, the local host committee raised $10.5 million to support the event, but Higgins said the committee isn’t saying what its target for private fundraising will be for 2021.

That said, “there will be many opportunities for those in the business community to step up in the next several months,” said host committee co-chairman Will Weatherford, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

So far, public money that’s already been committed to the host committee includes $3 million from Hillsborough County and $1.5 million from the Florida Sports Foundation. Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada said his organization will contribute $1 million to the host committee, plus help with marketing and staff work.

Castor said the city has not yet determined what its costs are likely to be. For the 2009 championship, then-Mayor Pam Iorio said the city would donate up to $1 million in in-kind services such as police and fire rescue overtime, new landscaping and traffic control.

“Clearly, there will be in-kind services,” Castor said. “We’re going to do what it takes to make the Super Bowl a success.”

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times