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Big shots are offered seats for big game

The NFL has offered Hillsborough and Pinellas officials a chance to buy Super Bowl tickets.

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 11, 2001


TAMPA -- With Super Bowl XXXV long sold out, most people hoping to watch the game from a stadium seat are probably out of luck.

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Greco
Unless they happen to be among a handful of muckety-mucks.

The National Football League has offered Hillsborough and Pinellas mayors, commissioners and selected officials a chance to buy a limited number of tickets to the big game.

But it will cost them $325 to $400 per seat, depending on location.

"Everybody pays for Super Bowl tickets," said Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. Greco, who was given the option of buying 10 tickets, said he hasn't decided whether he'll go or catch it on TV.

"I hate to say this, but because the Bucs aren't in it, I don't really care who wins," he said.

In the towns that host the big games, it's standard to offer ticket purchases to local politicians, said Jim Steeg, NFL's senior vice president of special events.

It's not "quid pro quo" for favors done, he said, it's "a kindness."

About 80 percent of the elected officials take the NFL up on the offer, he said, which is usually a chance to buy two tickets each.

"There's always one or two (officials) who think it's wrong to do," Steeg said. "And there's others that call back and say, 'Can we get four?' "

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Aungst
In Pinellas, the offer was extended to mayors and county commissioners but not to city council members. Commissioner Karen Seel bought two. Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst said he will probably use his two to go with his son. Then he learned Tampa's mayor was offered 10.

"Gee, could I get 10?" he asked. "Everybody in the world's asking me for them."

St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer could not be reached Wednesday.

For the record, the St. Petersburg Times bought six $325-tickets offered by the NFL.

In Tampa, Greco says he's tempted to forgo the stadium to watch the game on TV so he can glimpse how the rest of the world will see us on Super Bowl Sunday. He said two of his 10 tickets will be used by his secretary, but he won't say where the others are going.

"If I had 300 of them, they'd be all gone," he said.

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Platt
Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt, legendary for her resistance to even the hint of an appearance of impropriety, seemed sheepish when she admitted she bought two.

"Yeah, I did," she said.

Platt said she plans to give them to her son and daughter-in-law. (Platt, who attended Tampa's previous Super Bowl in 1991, said she doesn't recall who played but remembers security helicopters circling and Whitney Houston belting out the national anthem. "It was interesting," she said.)

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms said she let her aide buy her tickets. Tampa City Council member Rose Ferlita also bought two.

But put fellow council member Charlie Miranda firmly in the no-thanks column.

"I don't see any benefit the public gets (from) me getting a shake to go to something they can't go to," Miranda said.

"When you think about $800 for two tickets -- do you know how many meals that could buy for families who can't afford it?" said Hillsborough Commissioner Thomas Scott, who also declined.

- Sue Carlton can be reached at (813)226-3346 or carlton@sptimes.com.

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