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'No vacancy' signs gathering dust at hotels

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2003


SAN DIEGO -- In this day of corporate cutbacks, impending war and a weakening economy, the last thing major corporations want to do right now is ... well, blow a lot of money.

And it appears they won't this week at Super Bowl XXXVII.

According to San Diego convention officials, hotel reservations are down about 15-25 percent from the last time the city hosted the event -- 1998.

The disappointing numbers caused many hotels to drop their rates in an effort to lure more visitors. About 70 percent of the city's 51,000 hotel and motel rooms have been booked, compared with 95 percent one week before the game in 1998.

GREAT FOR TAMPA, NOT FOR US: Face scanning may be fine for Tampa Bay, but San Diego officials decided it's not their cup of tea for this week's Super Bowl.

The San Diego Police Department rejected the idea of using the technology, saying it's too costly and not effective.

The devices were used in Tampa for the 2001 Super Bowl, outraging opponents who deemed it an invasion of privacy. New Orleans officials also used the devices last year. Still, there will be security. Police officials expect to utilize more security this year than any other public event in the city.

WEB SITE MADNESS: For fans who can't attend the game, or who just want to keep up with almost everything involved, here are two Web sites you can't do without. The official site of Super Bowl XXXVII is www.superbowl.com. And for those who want to cast a vote for the favorite commercial aired during the game, www.superbowl-ads.com.

HOW MUCH?: If Sunday's AFC Championship Game was any indication, anyone still looking for a ticket to the Super Bowl may have to get an extra job to pay for it. Scalpers asked from $300-$800 for tickets to the Raiders vs. Titans. GUACAMOLE GAME: Just off a stretch of California interstate called the Avocado Highway, work crews in the U.S. avocado capital are harvesting fist-sized fruits destined to be mashed and mixed by football fans across the country.

Super Bowl Sunday has become one of the biggest days for U.S. avocado consumption as the popularity of its zesty dip derivative, guacamole, has spread.

Some 40-million pounds of avocados will be eaten during Sunday's Super Bowl festivities, according to the California Avocado Commission. "If you were to lay it out end zone to end zone at Qualcomm Stadium, that's over 5 feet deep," said Irene Cabanas, a spokeswoman for the commission.

The Super Bowl marks the largest U.S. consumption day of avocados for any sporting event. California is home to 86 percent of the nation's crop, and 46 percent of the state's avocados come from San Diego County.

SHOCKEY FINED: Giants rookie Jeremy Shockey was fined $10,000 for throwing a cup of ice into the stands and making an obscene gesture during a first-round playoff loss at San Francisco. The league docked the All-Pro tight end $5,000 for each act. The rookie threw the cup over his shoulder while being heckled by fans after he complained about officiating. The cup hit two children seated behind the Giants bench.

TRANSACTIONS: Denver promoted Larry Coyer to defensive coordinator and former player Steve Watson to receivers coach. Also, Jacksonville hired former player Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator and Ravens linebacker coach Mike Smith as defensive coordinator, the Associated Press reported.

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