Despite late start and pandemic, Tampa’s Super Bowl organizers never doubted game would happen


TAMPA — Tampa Bay had short notice, compared to other cities, that it would be hosting Super Bowl LV.

Los Angeles with its new SoFi Stadium was originally selected as the host city in 2016, but due to construction delays, NFL owners voted in 2017 to move the Super Bowl to Tampa.

But Host Committee CEO Rob Higgins said they were up for the challenge. After all, Tampa has already hosted four past Super Bowls.

Higgins also said it’s a regional effort, not just the city of Tampa but the entire bay area, including Clearwater, St. Petersburg and more. He said that’s really the only way they got this done.

“Our ‘regionality’ is truly our biggest strength. We call it Team Tampa Bay for a reason … We’re only as strong as we are together, and so everybody, every step of the way, hasn’t missed a beat, has been fantastic,” Higgins said.

After years of work, the pandemic struck, and organizers in Tampa were forced to drastically adjust once again, cutting crowd capacity, canceling some fan events and more.

Still, Higgins said he and his team knew, with the help of the NFL, they could pull this off.

And having the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, even if there’s a smaller crowd than normal, means a lot to the region right now.

With crowd size and other limitations, millions of dollars have vanished for their tourism industry. Higgins said the pandemic crushed the Tampa Bay area, but the Super Bowl is the perfect medicine.

“There’s going to be naysayers out there that focus on the glass being half empty, talk about the events that aren’t happening … it’s about the ones that are,” Higgins said. “The glass is more than three-quarters full here, and it’s at a time when we’re thirsty.”

The game is bringing thousands of people through the region’s airport and filling more hotel beds than the area has seen in months, Higgins said.

“This is a shot in the arm when we could really use it,” he said.

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