It's a common story, maybe an annual story at that - the Tampa Bay Times talking about the Super Bowl and the local group placing a bid to host the big game each year. In this instance, Tuesday morning, the Times highlighted the fact Tampa Bay wasn't even invited to submit a bid for Super Bowl L and LI.
The Super Bowl brings with it a large amount of attention nationally and internationally; a day wasted by broadcasters who seek to rival the game and a day where citizenry uninterested in the game can't escape it. Tampa Bay making a pitch to host the grand finale of the NFL season is a pitch for tourist dollars more than for the glory of the teams playing in the game.
The focus is on football, though. How about the other sports in town?
You don't hear about deliberate, focused pitches by power brokers here in the area/region (big shots in government and private industry) trying to secure baseball's mid-summer night classic, the All-Star Game. Of course, there are local politics and Major League Baseball politics that are preventing that. Bud Selig and MLB despise Tropicana Field (and the lack of fan support) and want a publicly financed replacement stadium constructed before such a grand event will be awarded to the Tampa/St. Petersburg market.
You know that (a new stadium) is a non-starter; the Rays have a lease at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has no intention of allowing the Rays to break it in any way, shape or form. So the MLB All-Star Game and the events tied to it are not a possibility any time soon.
Then there's the NCAA men's and women's basketball Final Four. Tampa Bay has hosted early rounds of action before with mixed results, it's also hosted the women's Final Four event at Times Palace in 2008. In 1998, fresh on the heels of renovating Tropicana Field for the Rays first season (...and on the tail end of the meteorological event known as El Niño), Tampa Bay hosted what was largely regarded as a disastrous men's Final Four at the Trop, where floors flooded in the building and visiting fans were made aware just how spread out the Tampa Bay region is.
Tampa Bay will likely continue to make bids for college basketball events like these in the future. College pride is part of what's behind it, tourism dollars as well, and the politics of the locals...
And then there's hockey...
You don't hear about these grand proposals so often, nor do they make the newspaper outside the sports section. Sometimes you read little asides in team beat reporting that the Lightning franchise has placed a bid to host All-Star Game, or the NHL Draft; two marquee events that draw in an International audience and tourists to boot.
You don't hear about a specific committee devoted to landing those events. You don't hear about local hoteliers embracing the idea of hosting such grand events (and the visitors they bring). It's hockey. It's an afterthought in the good-ole-boy network.
I'm not saying it doesn't happen; it's easier for me to suggest that than to shed light on the movers and shakers (after the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise itself) behind pitches for the NHL's league-wide events. It just feels like there isn't a coordinated push locally to land either event. There had been a larger push to land the NCAA men's Frozen Four event held at Times Palace in 2012. I haven't seen talk of a pitch for a future Frozen Four yet, but with the last event having just happened, that's not unexpected.
Back to the NHL all-star game and / or draft: Last week, Michael Yormark (President of the Florida Panthers) went to the Broward County Commission to plead for a handout for a new scoreboard at BB&T Center arena in Sunrise. The Panthers had been promised an All-Star Game or a Draft if they upgraded their obsolete scoreboard at center ice. After the county commission shamed Yormark, they voted in favor of the handout.
The promise of future events weren't on docket, but the influence of the promise likely was a guiding factor in the move. Almost $5 million will go to a new scoreboard, and the building will get to host a marquee event by 2016 because of it.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has thrown how many millions of dollars into the renovation of the Tampa Bay Times Forum? The major upgrade saw the building have a $35 million overhaul, the new scoreboard lofted that total to $40 million, and yet there have been more investments immediately preceding the 2010-11 season to the building. Without exact dollar figures, it's not wrong to assume Vinik has spent more than $45 million or more on the building.
Money invested by Vinik himself without a carrot being dangled in front of him by the league, to a building owned by Hillsborough County.
I realize there is a big difference between bidding for the Super Bowl (where only a select few cities are candidates to host) and an annual, league-hosted event open to just about every building in the league. Whatever the case, I sure hope local civic leaders and businesses are ready to step up and get Vinik's back should the Lightning make another pitch for hosting an All-Star or Draft event.
It might not be the Super Bowl but it's still an economic draw that's worth a unified push from the area.