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Downtown will leave the lights on, maybe

By BABITA PERSAUD, PAMELA DAVIS, SHARON TUBBS, KYLE PARKS, wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2001


To make sure Tampa's skyline is all aglow for Super Bowl week cameras, office buildings in downtown and the West Shore area have agreed to keep their lights on at night.

The Super Bowl Task Force hopes national television cameras will pan the city and make it look alive like New York City or Los Angeles, even at midnight.

The Task Force's decorations committee worked with the Building Owners & Managers Association of Greater Tampa, which sent out 28 letters requesting participation "to reflect our community to the nation in the best possible light."

Twenty responded favorably, said Jeff Rogo, a director with BOMA. Seven didn't respond at all.

One said no. (Rogo won't say which one). Their concern was the light bill, Rogo said.

YES, MORE CELEBS: Add comedian Jay Leno and singer LeAnn Rimes to the list of celebrity entertainers coming to town for the Super Bowl.

The night before the game, the two stars will appear at a private St. Petersburg bash for the Super Bowl XXXV Task Force sponsors.

About 1,000 people have been invited for a reception at the Times Arena at Bayfront Center, while 2,000 get tickets for the Leno/Rimes entertainment afterwards in the Mahaffey Theater.

LOPEZ ALERT: Jennifer Lopez is scheduled to appear at the NFL Experience, a mini-theme park around Raymond James Stadium, Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 when MTV's Total Request Live show broadcasts there with teen heartthrob host Carson Daly. What she will be wearing is unclear.

PLACING THEIR BETS: Betting on sports is illegal in Florida, but that didn't stop New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

They are making the traditional mayoral wagers on their Super Bowl home teams. If the Ravens win -- the professional gamblers give them a 3-point edge -- O'Malley gets two tickets to the Broadway show of his choice, a copy of the Encyclopedia of New York City, an assortment of fish from the Fulton Fish Market, a case of bottled New York City tap water and a case of Brooklyn lager beer.

If the Giants win, Giuliani gets a bushel of crabs, a dozen Baltimore burger cookies and items to be determined.

SUPER BACKHOES: Okay, this one takes the Super Bowl cake. Eight backhoes "dancing" to classical music.

Yes, folks, it's the "Dancing Diggers." In a Super Bowl event sponsored by Raymond James Financial and JCB, an English construction equipment manufacturer, eight 12-foot high, bright yellow backhoes will move in choreographed precision in a field near the Raymond James Financial Center, opposite Feather Sound on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, Jan. 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The drivers, construction employees, are specially trained. The event is free.

CHARITY STARTS WITH FOOTBALL: Somebody Cares Tampa Bay and Operation Blessing International, an organization based in Virginia, are sponsoring Supper Bowl, an annual festival and charitable event where food and clothing are distributed to those in need.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, organizers will give away more than 100,000 pounds of groceries to families throughout the bay area. The event is sanctioned by the Super Bowl Tampa Bay Task Force, and more than 5,000 people are expected to attend the festival at Rowlett Park, Waters Avenue and 22nd St. N in Tampa.

A number of professional athletes will also be on hand, including Robin Cole, all-pro linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew, Chicago White Sox player Herbert Perry and Clarence Hopson, formerly of the Washington Bullets.

- Compiled by Babita Persaud, Pamela Davis, Sharon Tubbs and Kyle Parks. Wire reports also used.

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