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Super Bowl XXXVII

Victory parade another first for Tampa

By KEVIN GRAHAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2003


TAMPA -- The streets of Tampa have waited a long time for a pirate invasion like the one happening today.

The world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will stroll through downtown this afternoon in a Super Bowl victory parade scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. at the Davis Island Bridge at Bayshore Boulevard and Swann Avenue.

The parade route will wind its way through downtown traveling north on Bayshore to turn right on Platt Street and Channelside Drive, turn left onto Florida Avenue, then left on Kennedy Boulevard to end at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa.

A Bucs spokesman didn't have details Monday about what to expect once the parade ends at Gaslight Park. Neither did city officials.

"It's kind of going to be an open venue," said Lt. John Bennett, a Tampa Police Department spokesman. "There is no itinerary at this point that I am aware of. We'll give the players and whoever wants to the chance to address the crowds. It's their show. We're just giving them the place to have it."

Being a Super Bowl champion city is uncharted territory for Tampa, so city and county officials said they turned to cities like Boston, home of last year's Super Bowl champs, for guidance in mapping out today's parade plans.

When the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams to snatch the Super Bowl XXXVI championship last year, an estimated 1.25-million fans flooded downtown Boston for a Pats victory parade.

Bennett said the Police Department isn't sure what kind of crowd to expect today for the Bucs' parade. He said officials had hoped to anticipate a crowd size based on the number of fans that went to Raymond James Stadium on Monday night to welcome the Bucs home from San Diego.

Still, he said, it's anyone's guess how many fans would show up.

"Some people may go (Monday night), and some may go (today)," Bennett said. "Whether we get doubled up or not, we don't know yet."

Some Hillsborough County public schools are giving students excused absences to attend the parade. The district is leaving it up to individual school principals. All high schools and elementary schools get out in time for the parade, but middle schools don't get out until 3:45 p.m.

Pinellas students who want to go to today's parade better weigh the consequences first.

If the student is unexcused and there's any work due today, the grade will automatically drop by one letter grade, said Nancy Zambito, a director of school operations for Pinellas County schools.

"There is such emphasis on student accountability and on scores now, I bet students will be in class," she said.

Exceptions in Hillsborough include Plant High School, releasing students today at 1:30 p.m., and Wilson Middle School, releasing students at 2:15 p.m. because of bus transportation problems stemming from parade road closures.

-- Times staff writers Melanie Ave and Monique Fields contributed to this report.

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