Superbowl Fever in Tampa…but what about bikes?

Anyone who follows professional football knows that next weekend, Superbowl XLIII makes its appearance in Tampa. Preparations are underway throughout the city for an estimated influx of over 100000 visitors for this huge event.

Since I live right down the road from Raymond James Stadium (where the game’s going to be played) and not too far from downtown Tampa, I thought I’d take a bike trip to capture some photos of the preparations and to see if there was any evidence of bicycle accomodations for the event.

First, pictures: how about the stadium itself —
rayjay

Along Himes Avenue, what used to be open grass parking fields have been converted into a “tent city”…event tents, stages and other structures designed to house the press, numerous VIP parties and something called The NFL Experience. It’s really quite amazing to see just how much has been packed into this area:

himes

more development

Huge fences have been erected with security entrances at points along it…the NFL was thoughtful enough to cover the fencing with “no peek” banners so the non-ticketholding-riffraff can’t look in at all those celebrities in attendance:

fence

Elsewhere in Tampa, a number of displays have gone up. Downtown near the Channelside area, two art installations are available for visitors. The first is an NFL-themed interactive sculpture that was part of Tampa’s recent “Lights on Tampa“. This one is called “Tampa’s public mood ring”, as it responds with different-colored lights as the crowd responds to it. The artists were thoughtful enough to set up an online tool to help change this art piece in real time. Play with that by clicking here.

mood ring

The second art installation is located nearby the “mood ring” on a portion of Tampa’s Riverwalk. It is a series of really cool sculptures made out of welded recycled steel and each piece is meant to represent an NFL team:

sculptures
(sorry, the pictures aren’t great…I’m no Russ Roca!)

Just down the street, construction crews have put the finishing touches on the brand-new Tampa Bay History Center, which is a breathtaking building. They had their grand opening last weekend and hope to be 100% operational by the time all those tourists and celebrities make their way into town.

history center

So…what does any of this have to do with bicycles? Good question. As many of you might have heard or read about, the recent inauguration in Washington D.C. saw thousands of cyclists take advantage of the free bike valet parking, courtesy of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). These folks did a tremendous job in orchestrating this, and with large parts of the city closed to motorists, bicycles made a LOT of sense to get around on.

What about Tampa and the Superbowl? Well, it’s like this: NO ONE I’ve spoken to and nowhere have I heard about or read ANYTHING about any bicycle accomodations for this huge event. There are going to be massive street closures (some of which are listed by clicking here) and because some of the road closures are major avenues through the city, I fear that gridlock is going to spill out into surrounding areas. I’ve got a couple theories about bicycles and the Superbowl, though:

1. If you can afford a ticket to the game or one of the exclusive VIP parties, you wouldn’t be caught dead tooling around town on a bike!
2. They can’t accomodate bikes at this event because they needed the room to park all the limousines, team vehicles, broadcast trucks and celebrity Hummers.
3. The most plausible: Tampa just doesn’t get it. Bikes? Those are for recreation, not transportation!

Anyhow, things should get interesting around here. I’ve got next weekend off, so I am strongly considering putting my pirate flag on the Xtracycle and wading into gridlock over in the stadium area…passing out “Gas Sucks” stickers and showing folks caught in traffic that there IS a worthwhile alternative to burning gas. I think I’ll check out that NFL Experience, too!

Who knows? I might bump into Diddy or Carmen Electra heading to one of those exclusive parties.


9 Comments

  1. Bike Jax January 26, 2009 12:12 am 

    Hey Jack, the Historical Center is a gorgeous looking building.

    When the big show was here in Jacksonville a few years ago I didn’t have tickets for anything either. The City and the NFL had set a few events that were free and open to the public. But the fun I had was riding my bike through all the throngs of people. I can’t tell you how many people stopped me after seeing me ride through the crowds and asked if knew where they could rent bikes. I also ran into (not literally) a surprising amount of celebs by just wandering around on my bike.

    I highly recommend you get out and enjoy the experience.

  2. Mike C January 26, 2009 6:34 am 

    Football seems to have developed into THE event at which to hold a tailgate party. Not to mention it seems like lots of fans are the SUV and small truck drivers cyclists and environmentalists love to hate. Is it any wonder that they forgot about bikes in the planning? Had anyone approached the stadium about bike accommodations before the SuperBowl show moved into town?

    You want to convert some people or at least get them thinking a bit different? Cruise around with a trailer full of ice and beer. Or comandeer a parking place and throw a cyclists tail gate party complete with grill and acoutrements that were transported there on bike. Make a party out of it.

  3. Ghost Rider January 26, 2009 6:58 am 

    Mike C — excellent ideas! I’ll see if some of my bike club friends want to pull this off.

    I’m not sure if any of the local cycling advocacy groups approached the Superbowl committee about bicycle parking (I suspect not), but I do know that one of them that is majorly involved in transportation issues around the city utterly dropped the ball when it came to this sort of planning.

    I stand behind my statement that Tampa just doesn’t get it.

  4. Tony Bullard January 26, 2009 11:03 am 

    As for the cycling tail gate party, imagine all the extra space you’d have in the parking spot!

  5. Chip Haynes January 26, 2009 1:24 pm 

    If I lived in Tampa (I live across the bay in Clearwater), I’d plan on doing a lot of routine bike maintence next weekend rather than a lot of bike riding. There’s going to be a lot of happy out-of-towners cruising the streets over there. Maybe it would be best to stay out of their way.

    I plan to.

  6. pamida7 January 26, 2009 4:01 pm 

    I agree with Ghost. Tampa doesn’t get it.
    I love the cycling tailgate party idea! I’ll have to file that one away for future use.

  7. Robert January 26, 2009 4:56 pm 

    I agree with Mike C on his comments, definitely grill hot dogs, brats, or burgers….or all of the above! I would like to add a few things that you already mentioned a little bit in your article….

    If possible, hand out flyers at the event talking about the benefits of bicycling. Inform people that bike commuting it is not as hard as people make it out to be. If there are locals attending, point them to this website and maybe offer to help them plan a route. If they are not locals….still point them to this website for tips!

    If people see you guys out there with bicycles, partying and having fun, I’m sure they will remember it. Hey…at least you guys will get to burn off all those calories you consumed on the ride after the game, unlike everyone else!

  8. Raiyn January 28, 2009 2:19 pm 

    I lived / worked in Tampa during the last Super Bowl that was in town. The only way to get around by Ray-Jay was by bike and even then it was a royal P.I.T.A. If I didn’t have to be there I wouldn’t have been.
    I’m so glad I get to stay on this side of the bridge this weekend.

  9. Rathna February 11, 2009 2:43 am 

    Wow great photos.. jack !!Historical Center is looking gorgeous . I would highly suggest you to enjoy the experience and have a fun.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *