Mayors across Tampa Bay met Monday to discuss preparations as Tampa approaches hosting its fifth Super Bowl.
The excitement was palpable, as this year’s Super Bowl will be the first in the National Football League’s history to be on one of the two team’s home field, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepping for the game at Raymond James Stadium.
One message was clear among the triage of Mayors: Come and visit.
“This is our opportunity to be on the world stage right now,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. “And the one thing I can guarantee you is that Tampa Bay is going to dance like we have never danced before.”
The region as a whole is hopeful that Super Bowl LV will bring some much needed tourism, an industry that has struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said Super Bowl weekend will have the most hotel rooms booked in the area since the start of the pandemic. Airline passenger traffic has also doubled recent pandemic rates.
“Our community is no stranger to hosting the Super Bowl during challenging times,” Higgins said.
The city will be hosting a free Super Bowl Experience at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on Tampa’s Riverwalk on Friday. Higgins said about 8,000 people are working to put on the Super Bowl festivities this year.
The regional leaders made clear that safety will be a priority. There won’t be any face to face autograph sessions with NFL players, and there will be limited capacity with social distancing and other mitigation protocols in place.
The city is also prepping for security, employing marine patrols, bike squads and eyes in the sky to ensure the event is safe, Castor said.
“We are again making sure that we show a great time to all the individuals that are coming to visit,” Castor said. “The safety and well being of our visitors is number one.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard are encouraging visitors to stop by some of the attractions their cities have to offer, like the region’s museums and beaches.
“In addition to watching an amazing football game and experiencing everything that a Super Bowl has to offer, you’ve got a region that has a lot to offer,” Kriseman said. “So come on down, experience everything that this Tampa Bay region has to offer. You will amaze yourself by what we’ve got here. You’ll fall in love.”
On Friday, the NFL announced that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated against COVID-19 will be given free tickets to the Super Bowl.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said in a news release that attendance at the Feb. 7 game would be limited to those workers and about 14,500 other fans. Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a capacity of just under 66,000, according to its website.